Risk Importance Ranking of Fire Data Parameters to Enhance Fire PRA Model Realism

John M. Biersdorf, Ha Bui, Tatsuya Sakurahara, Seyed Reihani, Chris LaFleur, David L. Luxat, Steven R. Prescott, Zahra Mohaghegh

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingCommissioned report


Fire is historically and analytically a significant contributor to nuclear power plant risk. The level of fire risk and the methods, tools and data for modeling this risk is highly debated by experts. One area of debate is the input data used in fire modeling and how to deal with this data’s high uncertainty. This report outlines initial work performed for determining the key parameters causing this uncertainty and how it propagates into nuclear power plant models. This research paves the way for the development of methods to reduce fire data uncertainty used in modeling. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has mandated that nuclear power plants perform fire risk modeling. However, there are several issues with the current risk modeling implementation that affect the results. Approved modeling methods can be overly conservative and often do not match plant experience. Also, the data used in the modeling can have high uncertainties and is influenced by expert judgement. To evaluate input data uncertainty, researchers performed an initial review of several fire experiments done at Sandia National Laboratories. Uncertainties for fire data can come from many sources, such as experiment design constraints, environmental conditions, or other plant-specific aspects. There are many different significant and insignificant parameters driving the uncertainty. Additionally, the uncertainty of the different input data used in the fire modeling could have a significant or insignificant effect on the entire plant risk. A four-step methodology was developed to perform Integrated Probabilistic Risk Assessment Importance Ranking. A demonstration case using these steps was set up and three of the four steps were completed in fiscal year (FY) 2019 and the fourth step done FY 2020. These steps are: 1. The qualitative analysis of potential sources was conducted with the following items identified for the demonstration. • Maximum heat release rate • Time to maximum heat release rate • Duration of max heat release rate • Time to decay • Thermal conductivity of concrete • Specific heat of concrete • Density of concrete • Cable jacket thickness 2. A quantitative characterization of dominant sources of uncertainty was performed. A list of distributions and determined values of the dominant sources is shown in Appendix A. 3. A quantitative screening of the potential sources of uncertainty using Morris Elementary Effects Analysis was completed. An experimental model using the physics-based fire modeling tool Fire Dynamics Simulator was developed and coupled with the Risk Analysis Virtual Environment. The Morris analysis identified at least two parameters that can be eliminated as significant contributors (specific heat of concrete and cable jacket thickness). 4. Global importance measure (Global IM) analysis to generate a comprehensive ranking based on their influence on the plant risk. In this research, a moment-independent Global IM is used since it can address (a) uncertainty in the input parameters of the fire model, (b) uncertainty in the risk outputs, and (c) non-linearity and interactions among input parameters in the fire model, more accurately than the correlation-based and variance-based global methods. The observations from the research showed that, depending on the initial and boundary conditions of the fire scenarios, fire-induced damage could have a very small probability and could be dominated by the tail of the uncertainty distribution; hence, the accuracy of the correlation-based and variance-based methods is questionable. The moment-independent Global IM analysis in this research provides a better understanding of how experimental uncertainty data affects industry’s plant models and where improvements in that data will have the largest benefit for improving fire modeling accuracy in causing core damage. Among the five unscreened parameters obtained from the Morris EE analysis, the Global IM analysis results for the case study indicated that max heat release rate and fire location are the most important parameters. The report also outlines benefits of using a unified computational platform that integrates the underlying simulations (e.g., a fire progression model), quantitative screening (using the Morris EE method), and the Global IM analysis. A unified platform can (i) facilitate the ranking of input parameters considering multiple key fire scenarios simultaneously, rather than considering one scenario at a time, (ii) contribute to more explicit and accurate treatment of dependencies at multiple levels of Fire PRA, (iii) facilitate the sampling-based uncertainty quantification for Fire PRA, and (iv) help generating both “industry-wide” and "plant-specific" ranking of uncertainty sources in Fire PRA. Future research should be done to include additional parameters such as detection/suppression or cable fire spread. Adding a PRA software such as SAPHIRE to the RAVEN platform would help with plant model integration and improve treatment of fire-induced dependency. The I-PRA risk importance ranking methodology offered in this report can provide valuable information for efficiently (a) enhancing the realism of Fire PRA for existing plants and (b) supporting the development of Dynamic Fire PRA for advanced reactors and new plants.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUnited States
StatePublished - 2020


  • Fire Risk Analysis
  • PRA


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