A Predictive Model of Nuclear Power Plant Crew Decision-Making and Performance in a Dynamic Simulation Environment
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The safe operation of complex systems such as nuclear power plants requires close coordination between the human operators and plant systems. In order to maintain an adequate level of safety following an accident or other off-normal event, the operators often are called upon to perform complex tasks during dynamic situations with incomplete information. The safety of such complex systems can be greatly improved if the conditions that could lead operators to make poor decisions and commit erroneous actions during these situations can be predicted and mitigated. The primary goal of this research project was the development and validation of a cognitive model capable of simulating nuclear plant operator decision-making during accident conditions. Dynamic probabilistic risk assessment methods can improve the prediction of human error events by providing rich contextual information and an explicit consideration of feedback arising from man-machine interactions. The Accident Dynamics Simulator paired with the Information, Decision, and Action in a Crew context cognitive model (ADS-IDAC) shows promise for predicting situational contexts that might lead to human error events, particularly knowledge driven errors of commission. ADS-IDAC generates a discrete dynamic event tree (DDET) by applying simple branching rules that reflect variations in crew responses to plant events and system status changes. Branches can be generated to simulate slow or fast procedure execution speed, skipping of procedure steps, reliance on memorized information, activation of mental beliefs, variations in control inputs, and equipment failures. Complex operator mental models of plant behavior that guide crew actions can be represented within the ADS-IDAC mental belief framework and used to identify situational contexts that may lead to human error events. This research increased the capabilities of ADS-IDAC in several key areas. The ADS-IDAC computer code was improved to support additional branching events and provide a better representation of the IDAC cognitive model. An operator decision-making engine capable of responding to dynamic changes in situational context was implemented. The IDAC human performance model was fully integrated with a detailed nuclear plant model in order to realistically simulate plant accident scenarios. Finally, the improved ADS-IDAC model was calibrated, validated, and updated using actual nuclear plant crew performance data. This research led to the following general conclusions: (1) A relatively small number of branching rules are capable of efficiently capturing a wide spectrum of crew-to-crew variabilities. (2) Compared to traditional static risk assessment methods, ADS-IDAC can provide a more realistic and integrated assessment of human error events by directly determining the effect of operator behaviors on plant thermal hydraulic parameters. (3) The ADS-IDAC approach provides an efficient framework for capturing actual operator performance data such as timing of operator actions, mental models, and decision-making activities.