National Nuclear Laboratory


Friday 24 May 2024

Security modelling and simulation software to support risk decision-making

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has published a paper outlining key regulatory considerations for the use of security modelling and simulation (SyM&S) software to support risk decision-making in the nuclear sector. 

It forms part of ONR’s commitment to enabling innovation across all areas of regulation, where it is safe and secure to do so. 

The paper shares the outcomes of an innovation advisory panel convened by ONR in March 2024, which considered an industry-wide challenge posed by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL). A panel of subject matter experts from within ONR, NNL and the dutyholder community met to consider the proposed use of SyM&S software as an assessment tool.   

A dutyholder is a responsible person on civil nuclear licensed sites and other nuclear premises subject to security regulation. This paper is intended to help those dutyholders make informed decisions on the use of SyM&S software to support decision-making for physical security risk management. 

SyM&S software was proposed by NNL as an objective and quantitative tool to assess physical security risk for civil nuclear sites, particularly those carrying the greatest risk. 

Key observations included the importance of: 

  • Thorough validation and verification of the software and contained data; 
  • Employing suitably qualified and experienced persons; 
  • Using high-quality data that is adequately protected through information assurance; and 
  • Considering whether long-term savings and other benefits could offset initial cost and resource investments. 

The panel concluded that SyM&S software could help support risk decision-making by complementing traditional approaches. It could support dutyholders to identify and assess risks quickly and responsively, and to test incident and emergency response plans in a rigorous and thorough manner. However, as with any system, its potential value will depend on skilled users and the quality of the software and data.  

Tom Eagleton, Head of Innovation, Research and Standards at ONR, said:

“I welcome this engagement with industry on innovations within nuclear security, supporting our strategic aim of enabling new approaches across all our regulatory purposes. 

“ONR is open to innovation and welcomes any engagement with our dutyholders to discuss what we can do to support new approaches in line with regulatory requirements.” 

George Foster, Associate Senior Security Consultant at NNL, said:

“NNL welcomes the findings of the ONR Innovation Hub Advisory Board in its review of modelling and simulation. We have been advocates for the benefits of increasing objectivity and quantification to complement existing methodologies for the performance evaluation of physical protection systems, and hope that this report enables the UK nuclear sector to utilise these approaches.”.