Common cause failure analysis of cyber-physical systems situated in constructed environments

Seppo Sierla, Bryan M. O'Halloran, Tommi Karhela, Nikolaos Papakonstantinou, Irem Y. Tumer (Corresponding Author)

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    33 Citations (Scopus)


    While cyber–physical system sciences are developing methods for studying reliability that span domains such as mechanics, electronics and control, there remains a lack of methods for investigating the impact of the environment on the system. External conditions such as flooding, fire or toxic gas may damage equipment and failing to foresee such possibilities will result in invalid worst-case estimates of the safety and reliability of the system. Even if single component failures are anticipated, abnormal environmental conditions may result in common cause failures that cripple the system. This paper proposes a framework for modeling interactions between a cyber–physical system and its environment. The framework is limited to environments consisting of spaces with clear physical boundaries, such as power plants, buildings, mines and urban underground infrastructures. The purpose of the framework is to support simulation-based risk analysis of an initiating event such as an equipment failure or flooding. The functional failure identification and propagation (FFIP) framework is extended for this purpose, so that the simulation is able to detect component failures arising from abnormal environmental conditions and vice versa: Flooding could be caused by a failure in a pipe or valve component. As abnormal flow states propagate through the system and its environment, the goal of the simulation is to identify the system-wide cumulative effect of the initiating event and any related common cause failure scenario. FFIP determines this effect in terms of degradation or loss of the functionality of the system. The method is demonstrated with a nuclear reactor’s redundant coolant supply system.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)375-394
    JournalResearch in Engineering Design
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • common cause failures
    • constructed environment
    • cyber-physical systems


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