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Part II Human Factors and saucer Salty: Au Agenda for Research
Human Factors and Nuclear Safely: An Agenda for Research The pane} recommends a general agenda of research on the human factors issues involved in the safety of nuclear reactors. Topics In major areas of needed research are described in sufficient detail to illustrate approaches that may be taken in each of them. The panel has made no attempt to develop a detailed program plan, schedule, or budget. That responsibility more properly rests with the manager of the NRC human factors research program and the nuclear industry. We do, however, attempt to place the topics in an overall sociotechnical context of nuclear reactor safety and to provide guidance for the management of a human factors research program needed to address the problems that exist within this context. In setting out to develop a research agenda, the pane! consid- ered whether to concentrate on existing or future plants. There was a great temptation to concentrate on future plants because the application of human factors technology is most cost-effective if it begins in the earliest stages of the design of a plant. How- ever, because the likelihood of new plant construction within the U.S. in the next decade is low, the pane! decided to concentrate on research applicable to existing plants and their potential life extension. As recent incidents continue to point out (e.g., Davis Besse tNUREG-1154, 1985h], Rancho Seco tNUREG-1195, 1985g], San Onofre [NUREG-1190, 1985i]), the human interaction with the technical system is an important factor in the safety of to- day's plants. In addition, there are potent factors that can and 43
44 will produce change in human-related aspects of the nuclear power plant. These factors include changes In technology due to systems obsolescence and replacement, changes in the technology baseline (the capabilities of affordable computer-based systems has dra- matically increased in the last five years), regulatory forces, and cost or insurance benefit justification. The pane! also recognized that, to be manageable, the scope of its study would have to be limited. Therefore, we decided to restrict our attention to human factors research on commercial nuclear power reactor systems without considering other related human factors issues concerned with radioactive waste transporta- tion or disposal, waste site management, fuel inventory manage- ment, quality control in plant construction, and the safeguarding of nuclear power plants from insider threats, sabotage, or terrorist attacks. In the judgment of the panel, human factors research is re- quired in five general areas: human-system interface design, the personnel subsystem, human performance, management and or- ganization, and the regulatory or environmental context. Each of these five areas includes a number of research topics, some of which have been identified as being of higher priority. The specific re- search issues involved in each proposed research topic are elements that are judged to be necessary to improve design, performance, operations, maintenance, and regulation of plants. To provide an- swers to important questions, the proposed research program must operate coherently for an extended period rather than jump about in response to each new unmediate external demand. Continuity of research is deemed essential to a productive program. The pane} followed three criteria in detertn~ning the higher priority research topics. First, some research topics may have a critical impact on safety and thus should be addressed immedi- ately. Second, In some areas research is needed as a basis for evaluation of innovation expected in the near term. For example, in the very near term it is likely that the NRC will be asked to rule on the acceptability of employing computer-based decision systems in nuclear power plants; research on some topics is essen- tial to provide a sound basis for making these decisions. Third, a particular research topic may be an essential building block for longer-term progress and to resolve future issues. An example of this is research on the development of causal models of human
45 error that will increase the ability to make more accurate predic- tions of the conditions under which it could occur. Progress in this area will require several years' effort but wiD have a broad impact on all aspects of nuclear power plant safety - regulation, design, operation, and maintenance. During the period in which the initial research studies are con- ducted, the NRC, together with the advisory assistance described in Chapter Two (A Commitment to Research section), should review the broader scope of research suggested by the topics de- scribed in this report and should develop an ongoing program plan to include those additional topics the pane} has identified as program elements, which are not already being investigated. Funding should be allocated for research that becomes urgent due to unforeseen circumstances in such a way that the systematic research program continues without significant interruption. It is most unportant to note that in all cases we believe that re- search should be directed at management, maintenance, and other support activities in addition to operation in the control room.