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Decision Making During Nuclear Power Plant Incidents—A New Approach to the Evaluation of Precursor Events

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Renewed interest in precursor analysis has shown that the evaluation of near misses is an interdisciplinary effort, fundamental within the life of an organization for reducing operational risks and enabling accident prevention. The practice of precursor analysis has been a part of nuclear power plant regulation in the United States for over 25 years. During this time, the models used in the analysis have evolved from simple risk equations to quite complex probabilistic risk assessments. But, one item that has remained constant over this time is that the focus of the analysis has been on modeling the scenario using the risk model (regardless of the model sophistication) and then using the results of the model to determine the severity of the precursor incident. We believe that evaluating precursors in this fashion could be a shortcoming since decision making during the incident is not formally investigated. Consequently, we present the idea for an evaluation procedure that enables one to integrate current practice with the evaluation of decisions made during the precursor event. The methodology borrows from technologies both in the risk analysis and the decision analysis realms. We demonstrate this new methodology via an evaluation of a U.S. precursor incident. Specifically, the course of the incident is represented by the integration of a probabilistic risk assessment model (i.e., the risk analysis tool) with an influence diagram and the corresponding decision tree (i.e., the decision analysis tools). The results and insights from the application of this new methodology are discussed.

Keywords: Decision analysis; precursor analysis; probalistic safety assessment

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2007-08-01

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