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71 pp.


This report describes the interim progress for research supporting the design and optimization of information automation systems for nuclear power plants. Much of the domestic nuclear fleet is currently focused on modernizing technologies and processes, including transitioning toward digitalization in the control room and elsewhere throughout the plant, along with a greater use of automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and other emerging technologies. While there are significant opportunities to apply these technologies toward greater plant safety, efficiency, and overall cost-effectiveness, optimizing their design and avoiding potential safety and performance risks depends on ensuring that human-performance-related organizational and technical design issues are identified and addressed. This report describes modeling tools and techniques, based on sociotechnical system theory, to support these design goals and their application in the current research effort. The report is intended for senior nuclear energy stakeholders, including regulators, corporate management, and senior plant management. We have developed and employed a method to design an optimized information automation ecosystem (IAE) based on the systems-theoretic constructs underlying sociotechnical systems theory in general and the Systems-Theoretic Accident Modeling and Processes (STAMP) approach in particular. We argue that an IAE can be modeled as an interactive information control system whose behavior can be understood in terms of dynamic control and feedback relationships amongst the system’s technical and organizational components. Up to this point, we have employed a Causal Analysis based on STAMP (CAST) technique to examine a performance- and safety-related incident at an industry partner’s plant that involved the unintentional activation of an emergency diesel generator. This analysis provided insight into the behavior of the plant’s current information control structure within the context of a specific, significant event. Our ongoing analysis is focused on identifying near-term process improvements and longer-term design requirements for an optimized IAE system. The latter analyses will employ a second STAMP-derived technique, System-Theoretic Process Analysis (STPA). STPA is a useful modeling tool for generating and analyzing actual or potential information control structures. Finally, we have begun modeling plantwide organizational relationships and processes. Organizational system modeling will supplement our CAST and STPA findings and provide a basis for mapping out a plantwide information control architecture. CAST analysis findings indicate an important underlying contributor to the incident under investigation, and a significant risk to information automation system performance, was perceived schedule pressure, which exposed weaknesses in interdepartmental coordination between and within responsible plant organizations and challenged the resilience of established plant processes, until a human caused the initiating event. These findings are discussed in terms of their risk to overall system performance and their implications for information automation system resilience and brittleness. We present two preliminary information automation models. The proactive issue resolution model is a test case of an information automation concept with significant near-term potential for application and subsequent reduction in significant plant events. The IAE model is a more general representation of a broader, plantwide information automation system. From our results, we have generated a set of preliminary system-level requirements and safety constraints. These requirements will be further developed over the remainder of our project in collaboration with nuclear industry subject matter experts and specialists in the technical systems under consideration. Additionally, we will continue to pursue the system analyses initiated in the first part of our effort, with a particular emphasis on STPA as the main tool to identify weak or weakening ontrol structures that affect the resilience of organizations and programs. Our intent is to broaden the scope of the analysis from an individual use case to a related set of use cases (e.g., maintenance tasks, compliance tasks) with similar human-system performance challenges. This will enable more generalized findings to refine the Proactive Issue Resolution and IAE models, as well as their system-level requirements and safety constraints. We will use organizational system modeling analyses to supplement STPA findings and model development. We conclude the report with a set of summary recommendations and an initial draft list of system-level requirements and safety constraints for optimized information automation systems.


Included with the kind written permission of the U.S. Department of Energy.


Report Number: INL/RPT-23-73099-Rev000

Original Publication Citation

Joe, J., Hettinger, L., Dainoff, M., Murray, P., & Yamani, Y. (2023). Light water sustainability program: Optimizing information automation using a new method based on system-theoretic process analysis (INL/RPT-23-73099). United States Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy.


0000-0001-8990-0010 (Yamani)