The Socio-Technical Risk Analysis (SoTeRiA) Research Laboratory in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma and Radiological Engineering (NPRE) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has received a $500,000 grant (2021-2024) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for “Advancing Uncertainty Analysis Processes in Risk-Informed Regulatory Framework to Support Simulation Approaches for Aging Plants and Advanced Reactors”.
NPRE Associate Professor Zahra Mohaghegh serves as the Principal Investigator (PI) of this project, while Research Scientist Seyed Reihani and Research Associate Ernie Kee from the SoTeRiA Research Laboratory are the Co-PIs. The project also has in-kind collaborators from the Idaho National Laboratory (Dr. Curtis Smith), Pacifica Northwest National Laboratory (Dr. Steve Unwin), Exelon Generation Company (Mr. Jeff Stone) and Sigma-Phase Corp. (Mr. Bengt Lydell).
The use of advanced modeling and simulation for addressing emergent safety issues associated with age-related phenomena in existing nuclear power plants and for promoting the analysis, design, and operationalization of advanced reactors has been receiving increased attention. This research project, led by the SoTeRiA Laboratory at NPRE, comprises a unique collaboration among experts from academia, national laboratories, and industry to develop a scientifically justifiable methodology for the validation of advanced simulation models under the Risk-Informed Regulatory (RIR) framework.
The SoTeRiA Research Laboratory has made scholarly contributions to the science of Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA), which is a key pillar in the risk-informed decision-making framework of the NRC. SoTeRiA has a proven track record of bridging scientific risk analysis research with industry and regulatory challenges. In addition to this NRC grant, SoTeRiA research has received funding from several national sponsors, for example,
- the Department of Energy (DOE) to advance PRA algorithms for the deployment of new technologies in nuclear power plants;
- the DOE to develop systematic enterprise risk management for promoting nuclear fleet sustainability;
- the National Science Foundation (NSF) for big data analytics in PRA; and
- the nuclear power industry for advancing fire risk assessment and for the risk-informed resolution of Generic Safety Issue 191 (GSI-191), a long-standing issue for the nuclear industry and the NRC.
With the desire to create an international think tank for safety, SoTeRiA has conducted research collaborations, for example,
- with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to develop risk-informed methodologies for advanced reactors and
- with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) to advance simulation models for risk-informed emergency preparedness and response.
The results of the SoTeRiA research projects have been published in more than 60 journal and conference papers (https://soteria.npre.illinois.edu/publications/) and have earned a significant number of citations.