Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Energy Science and Engineering

Major Professor

Howard L. Hall

Committee Members

Yilu Liu, Laurence F. Miller, Lee L. Riedinger


Life as we know it in modern society relies on the smooth functioning of the electric Grid – the Critical Infrastructure system that generates and delivers electricity to our homes, businesses, and factories. Virtually all other Critical Infrastructure systems depend on the Grid for the electricity they require to execute other essential societal functions such as telecommunications, water supply and waste water services, fuel delivery, etc. This study examines the concepts of Critical Infrastructure and electric Grid resilience, and the role nuclear power plants do and might play in enhancing U.S. Grid resilience. Grid resilience is defined as the system’s ability to minimize interruptions of electricity flow to customers given a specific load prioritization hierarchy. The question of whether current U.S. nuclear power plants are significant Grid resilience assets is examined in light of this definition. Despite their many virtues and their “fuel security,” the conclusion is reached that current U.S. nuclear power plants are not significant Grid resilience assets for scenarios involving major Grid disruptions. The concept of a “resilient nuclear power plant” or “rNPP” – a nuclear power plant that is intentionally designed, sited, interfaced, and operated in a manner to enhance Grid resilience – is presented. Two rNPP Key Attributes and Six rNPP Functional Requirements are defined. Several rNPP design features (system architectures and technologies) that could enable a plant to achieve the Six rNPP Functional Requirements are described. Four specific applications of rNPPs are proposed: (1) rNPPs as flexible electricity generation assets, (2) rNPPs as anchors of hybrid nuclear energy systems, (3) rNPPs as Grid Black Start Resources, and (4) rNPPs as anchors of Resilient Critical Infrastructure Islands. The last two applications are new concepts for enhancing U.S. strategic resilience. Finally, a few key unresolved issues are discussed and recommendations for future research are offered. Study results support the overall conclusion that successful development and deployment of rNPPs could significantly enhance U.S. Grid, Critical Infrastructure, and societal resilience, while transforming the value proposition of nuclear energy in the 21st century.

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