Stochastic Modeling of Deterioration in Nuclear Power Plant Components
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The risk-based life-cycle management of engineering systems in a nuclear power plant is intended to ensure safe and economically efficient operation of energy generation infrastructure over its entire service life. An important element of life-cycle management is to understand, model and forecast the effect of various degradation mechanisms affecting the performance of engineering systems, structures and components. The modeling of degradation in nuclear plant components is confounded by large sampling and temporal uncertainties. The reason is that nuclear systems are not readily accessible for inspections due to high level of radiation and large costs associated with remote data collection methods. The models of degradation used by industry are largely derived from ordinary linear regression methods. The main objective of this thesis is to develop more advanced techniques based on stochastic process theory to model deterioration in engineering components with the purpose of providing more scientific basis to life-cycle management of aging nuclear power plants. This thesis proposes a stochastic gamma process (GP) model for deterioration and develops a suite of statistical techniques for calibrating the model parameters. The gamma process is a versatile and mathematically tractable stochastic model for a wide variety of degradation phenomena, and another desirable property is its nonnegative, monotonically increasing sample paths. In the thesis, the GP model is extended by including additional covariates and also modeling for random effects. The optimization of age-based replacement and condition-based maintenance strategies is also presented. The thesis also investigates improved regression techniques for modeling deterioration. A linear mixed-effects (LME) regression model is presented to resolve an inconsistency of the traditional regression models. The proposed LME model assumes that the randomness in deterioration is decomposed into two parts: the unobserved heterogeneity of individual units and additive measurement errors. Another common way to model deterioration in civil engineering is to treat the rate of deterioration as a random variable. In the context of condition-based maintenance, the thesis shows that the random variable rate (RV) model is inadequate to incorporate temporal variability, because the deterioration along a specific sample path becomes deterministic. This distinction between the RV and GP models has profound implications to the optimization of maintenance strategies. The thesis presents detailed practical applications of the proposed models to feeder pipe systems and fuel channels in CANDU nuclear reactors. In summary, a careful consideration of the nature of uncertainties associated with deterioration is important for credible life-cycle management of engineering systems. If the deterioration process is affected by temporal uncertainty, it is important to model it as a stochastic process.