Doctoral Dissertations

Orcid ID

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Nuclear Engineering

Major Professor

Lawrence H. Heilbronn

Committee Members

John D. Auxier, II, J. Timothy (Tim) Goorley, John E. Kobza, Joel A. Kulesza, Tucker C. McClanahan


This work includes the first known capabilities-based vulnerability analysis process able to evaluate a system of systems exposed to nuclear weapon environments: the Nuclear System-of-Systems Capabilities Analytic Process (NuSCAPTM). This approach, executed by an automated Python® application, calculates the magnitudes of eight nuclear weapon environment quantities by calling on the US Strategic Command Probability of Damage Calculator (PDCALC) code, the Los Alamos National Laboratory Simple Nuclear Effects Calculator (SNEC) program, and the Monte Carlo N-Particle® (MCNP®) code. Calculated nuclear weapon environment values are compared with user-provided dysfunction thresholds for all components, subsystems, and systems in the model to determine the functionality of each model element. Residual systemand system-of-systems-level functionality and capabilities are determined by traversing paths through a graph of the system-of-systems architecture. Capabilities are reported according to discrete degraded-states metrics determined by traversing the graph using Dijkstra’s algorithm. Results are delivered as JSON output files and visual depictions of the graphs.

Three case studies demonstrate NuSCAP’s ability to provide system-of-systems vulnerability analyses in three distinct nuclear weapon detonation scenarios. These studies analyze a representative, conventional, US Army system of systems exposed to a 10 kiloton nuclear weapon detonation. Ground ranges between the detonation and the target systems considered in the case studies span from a few meters to almost four kilometers. Results are based on notional, but reasonable, dysfunction thresholds because actual failure levels for most components are currently unavailable. The three case studies demonstrate NuSCAP’s ability to adjudicate nuclear weapon effects on military targets and aggregate damage in order to resolve the maximum residual capabilities of a military system of systems. Capabilities assessed include electric power generation, communication, target observation and identification, and weapon system engagement that all support fundamental needs of military units to shoot, move, and communicate.

Requisite data, sources of those data, challenges to realistic modeling and simulations, and future areas of research are discussed. NuSCAP application Python packages, data files, and output files are also provided.

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