Development of Approaches to Common Cause Dependencies with Applications to Multi-Unit Nuclear Power Plant

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The term “common cause dependencies” encompasses the possible mechanisms that directly compromise components performances and ultimately cause degradation or failure of multiple components, referred to as common cause failure (CCF) events. The CCF events have been a major contributor to the risk posed by the nuclear power plants and considerable research efforts have been devoted to model the impacts of CCF based on historical observations and engineering judgment, referred to as CCF models. However, most current probabilistic risk assessment (PRA) studies are restricted to single reactor units and could not appropriately consider the common cause dependencies across reactor units. Recently, the common cause dependencies across reactor units have attracted a lot of attention, especially following the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan that involved multiple reactor unit damages and radioactive source term releases. To gain an accurate view of a site's risk profile, a site-based risk metric representing the entire site rather than single reactor unit should be considered and evaluated through a multi-unit PRA (MUPRA). However, the multi-unit risk is neither formally nor adequately addressed in either the regulatory or the commercial nuclear environments and there are still gaps in the PRA methods to model such multi-unit events. In particular, external events, especially seismic events, are expected to be very important in the assessment of risks related to multi-unit nuclear plant sites.

The objective of this dissertation is to develop three inter-related approaches to address important issues in both external events and internal events in the MUPRA.

  1. Develop a general MUPRA framework to identify and characterize the multi-unit events, and ultimately to assess the risk profile of multi-unit sites.

  2. Develop an improved approach to seismic MUPRA through identifying and addressing the issues in the current methods for seismic dependency modeling. The proposed approach can also be extended to address other external events involved in the MUPRA.

  3. Develop a novel CCF model for components undergoing age-related degradation by superimposing the maintenance impacts on the component degradation evolutions inferred from condition monitoring data. This approach advances the state-of-the-art CCF analysis in general and assists in the studies of internal events of the MUPRA.