The concept of safety margins has served as a fundamental principle in the design and operation of commercial nuclear power plants (NPPs). Defined as the minimum distance between a system’s “loading” and its “capacity”, plant design and operation is predicated on ensuring an adequate safety margin for safety-significant parameters (e.g., fuel cladding temperature, containment pressure, etc.) is provided over the spectrum of anticipated plant operating, transient and accident conditions. To meet the anticipated challenges associated with extending the operational lifetimes of the current fleet of operating NPPs, the United States Department of Energy (USDOE), the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) have developed a collaboration to conduct coordinated research to identify and address the technological challenges and opportunities that likely would affect the safe and economic operation of the existing NPP fleet over the postulated long-term time horizons. In this paper we describe a framework for developing and implementing a Risk-Informed Safety Margin Characterization (RISMC) approach to evaluate and manage changes in plant safety margins over long time horizons.

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