Human-centered automation for resilient nuclear power plant outage control

Cheng Zhang, Pingbo Tang, Nancy Cooke, Verica Buchanan, Alper Yilmaz, Shawn W. St. Germain, Ronald Laurids Boring, Saliha Akca-Hobbins, Ashish Gupta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Nuclear power plant (NPP) outages are challenging construction projects. Delays in NPP outage processes can cause significant economic losses. In typical NPP outages, extremely busy outage schedules, large crew sizes, dynamic workspaces and zero tolerance of accidents pose challenges to ensuring the resilience of outage control, which should rapidly and proactively respond to delays, errors, or unexpected tasks added during outages. Two mutually interacting practical problems impede NPPs from achieving such resilient outage control: 1) how to control errors and wastes effectively during the “handoffs” between tasks, and 2) how to respond to numerous contingencies in NPP outage workflows in a responsive and proactive manner. A resilient NPP outage control system should address these two practical problems through “Human-Centered Automation (HCA),” which is improving the control process automation while fully considering human factors. Previous studies examined two categories of technologies that potentially enable HCA in outage control: 1) computational modeling and simulation methods for predicting states of field operations and workflows; 2) data collection and processing methods for capturing the reality and thus providing feedback to computational models. Unfortunately, limited studies systematically synthesize technological challenges related to these practical problems and underlying HCA principles. This paper identifies the domain requirements, challenges, and potential solutions of achieving the HCA system that effectively supports resilient NPP outage control. This proposed system aims at significantly improving the performance of handoff monitoring/control and responding to contingencies during the outage. Firstly, the authors identified information acquisition and modeling challenges of achieving human-center automation for outage control. The rest of the paper then synthesizes potential techniques available in the domains of computer science, cognitive science, system science, and construction engineering that can potentially address these challenges. The authors concluded this literature and technological review with a research roadmap for achieving HCA in construction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-192
Number of pages14
JournalAutomation in construction
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Human factors
  • Human-centered automation
  • Infrastructure management
  • Nuclear power plant outage
  • Nuclear safety
  • Project control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction


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