Dissertation Defense – Jonathan DeJesus Segarra

Title: A Bayesian Network Perspective on the Elements of a Nuclear Power Plant Multi-Unit Seismic Probabilistic Risk Assessment.

Author: Jonathan DeJesus Segarra

Day/Time: Friday, July 16, 2021 at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Time)

Examining Committee:
Dr. Michelle Bensi
Dr. Mohammad Modarres
Dr. Gregory Baecher
Dr. Katrina Groth
Dr. Robert Bunditz
Dr. Vedran Lekic


Nuclear power plants (NPPs) generated about 10% of the world’s electricity in 2019 and about 1/3 of the world’s low-carbon electricity production. Probabilistic risk assessments (PRAs) are used to estimate the risk posed by NPPs, generate insights related to strengths and vulnerabilities, and support risk-informed decisionmaking related to safety and reliability. While PRAs are typically carried out on a reactor-by-reactor basis, the Fukushima Dai-ichi accident highlighted the need to also consider multi-unit accidents. To properly characterize the risks of reactor core damage and subsequent radiation release at a multi-unit site, it is necessary to account for dependencies among reactors arising from the possibility that adverse conditions affect multiple units concurrently. For instance, the seismic hazard is one of the most critical threats to NPP structures, systems, and components (SSCs) because it affects their redundancy. Seismic PRAs are comprised of three elements: seismic hazard analysis, fragility evaluation, and systems analysis.

This dissertation presents a Bayesian network (BN) perspective on the elements of a multi-unit seismic PRA (MUSPRA) by outlining a MUSPRA approach that accounts for the dependencies across NPP reactor units. BNs offer the following advantages: graphical representation that enables transparency and facilitates communicating modeling assumptions; efficiency in modeling complex dependencies; ability to accommodate differing probability distribution assumptions; and facilitating multi-directional inference, which allows for the efficient calculation of joint and conditional probability distributions for all random variables in the BN. The proposed MUSPRA approach considers the spatial variability of the ground motions (hazard analysis), dependent seismic performance of SSCs (fragility evaluation), and efficient BN modeling of systems (systems analysis). Considering the spatial variability of ground motions represents an improvement over the typical assumption that ground motions across a NPP site are perfectly correlated. The method to model dependent seismic performance of SSCs presented is an improvement over the current “perfectly dependent or independent” approach for dependent seismic performance and provides system failure probability results that comply with theoretical bounds. Accounting for these dependencies in a systematic manner makes the MUSPRA more realistic and, therefore, should provide confidence in its results (calculated metrics) and risk insights.