System Design and Management

The MIT Master's Program in Engineering and Management

Systems Issues in Nuclear Reactor Safety


George Apostolakis, Commissioner, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission

This presentation will address the important role system modeling has played in meeting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s expectation that the risks from nuclear power plants should not be a significant addition to other societal risks. Nuclear power plants are designed to be fundamentally safe due to diverse and redundant barriers to prevent radiation exposure to the public and the environment. A summary of the evolution of probabilistic risk assessment of commercial nuclear power systems will be presented. The summary will begin with the landmark Reactor Safety Study performed in 1975 and continue up to the risk-informed Reactor Oversight Process. Topics will include risk-informed decision making, risk assessment limitations, the philosophy of defense-in-depth, importance measures, regulatory approaches to handling procedural and human errors, and the influence of safety culture as the next level of nuclear power safety performance improvement.

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  • Sloan School of Management
  • School of Engineering
  • Engineering Systems Division

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