Resilience Modelling Framework for Improved Nuclear Safety

Accidents at nuclear plant, such as those at Fukushima and Chernobyl, have increased the public awareness of the severe consequences that can result when system failures occur. However, as the demand for energy increases and low-carbon sources are required, many countries, including the UK and India, see nuclear power generation as an important contributor to meeting these needs.

Principle Investigator
Dr Edoardo Patelli

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Risk analysis methods, which originated in the 1970s, require the evaluation of the frequency and consequences of the potential hazards which can occur on nuclear systems. It is these methods which have been used, and are still used, to ensure the safety of nuclear power generation. However, since the conception of the risk analysis approaches, the characteristics of engineering systems have undergone significant changes due to the advances which have occurred in technology. Computer control systems and the use of autonomous systems are now common and this introduces new vulnerabilities to the system. The range of failures and threat events which can cause safety issues is increasing with newly emerging threats due to the severe weather conditions associated with global warning and deliberate terrorist attacks and cyber-attacks of increasing concern. It is likely that new, currently unknown, threat types will continue to emerge. These changes in the systems, their vulnerabilities and their threats mean that new approaches, capable of dealing with these new requirements are needed to ensure the safety and security of nuclear energy production for future reactors.

Resilience engineering is considered to offer significant benefits when considering the effectiveness of safety critical systems on potentially hazardous plant. This approach looks at designing systems which are capable of experiencing treats and have several approaches (known as dimensions) which enable the system to avoid, withstand, adapt to or recover from their effects.

This project examines the benefits that resilience engineering could offer in the context of nuclear safety systems. It indicates the models and data required to predict the resilience of a nuclear power generation plant. Such models will be formulated and applied to a demonstrator system. Through this predictive tool modern nuclear systems can be designed and operated to achieve the high levels of safety demanded. Special attention in the framework will be given to deliberated, intended cyber-attacks and also the role in which humans can play in the recovery of the system following a threat.


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