The extension of nuclear power plant operating licenses beyond 60 years in the United States will be necessary if we are to meet national energy needs while addressing the issues of carbon and climate. Characterizing the operating risks associated with aging reactors is problematic because the principal tool for risk-informed decision-making, Probabilistic Risk Assessment (PRA), is not ideally-suited to addressing aging systems. The components most likely to drive risk in an aging reactor — the passives — receive limited treatment in PRA, and furthermore, standard PRA methods are based on the assumption of stationary failure rates: a condition unlikely to be met in an aging system. A critical barrier to modeling passives aging on the wide scale required for a PRA is that there is seldom sufficient field data to populate parametric failure models, and nor is there always the availability of practical physics models to predict out-year component reliability. The methodology described here circumvents some of these data and modeling needs by using materials degradation metrics, integrated with conventional PRA models, to produce risk importance measures for specific aging mechanisms and component types. We suggest that these measures have multiple applications, from the risk-screening of components to the prioritization of materials research.

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