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Bayesian belief network model for the safety assessment of nuclear computer-based systems

Fenton, N., Littlewood, B., Neil, M. , Strigini, L., Wright, D. R. & Courtois, P.-J. (1997). Bayesian belief network model for the safety assessment of nuclear computer-based systems (52). Brussels: DeVa ESPRIT Long Term Research Project.


The formalism of Bayesian Belief Networks (BBNs) is being increasingly applied to probabilistic modelling and decision problems in a widening variety of fields. This method provides the advantages of a formal probabilistic model, presented in an easily assimilated visual form, together with the ready availability of efficient computational methods and tools for exploring model consequences. Here we formulate one BBN model of a part of the safety assessment task for computer and software based nuclear systems important to safety. Our model is developed from the perspective of an independent safety assessor who is presented with the task of evaluating evidence from disparate sources: the requirement specification and verification documentation of the system licensee and of the system manufacturer; the previous reputation of the various participants in the design process; knowledge of commercial pressures;information about tools and resources used; and many other sources. Based on these multiple sources of evidence, the independent assessor is ultimately obliged to make a decision as to whether or not the system should be licensed for operation within a particular nuclear plant environment. Our BBN model is a contribution towards a formal model of this decision problem. We restrict attention to a part of this problem: the safety analysis of the Computer System Specification documentation. As with other BBN applications we see this modelling activity as having several potential benefits. It employs a rigorous formalism as a focus for examination, discussion, and criticism of arguments about safety. It obliges the modeller to be very explicit about assumptions concerning probabilistic dependencies, correlations, and causal relationships. It allows sensitivity analyses to be carried out. Ultimately we envisage this BBN, or some later development of it, forming part of a larger model, which might well take the form of a larger BBN model, covering all sources of evidence about pre-operational life-cycle stages. This could provide an integrated model of all aspects of the task of the independent assessor, leading up to the final judgement about system safety in a particular context. We expect to offer some results of this further work later in the DeVa project.

Publication Type: Report
Additional Information: In DeVa ESPRIT Long Term Research Project No. 20072 - 2nd Year Report, pp. 485-512, Dec, 1997.
Subjects: Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Departments: School of Science & Technology > Computer Science > Software Reliability
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