Model Checking Large Nuclear Power Plant Safety System Designs: Dissertation

Jussi Lahtinen

Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles


Digital instrumentation and control (I&C) systems are increasingly being used for implementing safety-critical applications such as nuclear power plant safety systems. The exhaustive verification of these systems is challenging, and verification methods such as testing and simulation are typically insufficient. Model checking is a formal method for verifying the correctness of a system design model. The requirements of the system are formalised using temporal logic, and the behaviour of the system model is exhaustively analysed with respect to these formal specifications. The method is very effective in finding hidden design errors. Model checking is computationally very demanding, and thus one of the challenges in applying model checking is its scalability. This dissertation discusses the verification of larger systems implementing multiple functions using model checking. First of all, this dissertation presents methodology for modelling safety system designs, and describes a simple abstraction technique for models of these systems that utilises modular over-approximating abstractions. Furthermore, the dissertation presents the development of an iterative abstraction refinement algorithm for the purpose of automatically finding an abstraction level suitable for verification. This dissertation also studies hardware failures, and creates an extension of the safety system modelling methodology that enables the analysis of fault-tolerance properties in large manyredundant system assemblies. The methodology follows closely the conventions of probabilistic risk assessment (PRA), and serves as a first step for further integration between model checking and PRA. Finally, this work presents the development of a test set generation technique based on model checking that utilises the structure of function block diagram (FBD) programs. The results of this work have a high significance to safety because the developed techniques can be used to verify the correctness of safety system designs used in nuclear power plants. The work has also improved the scalability and applicability of model checking, and can be seen as part of a continuum toward larger plant-level models and toward new all-encompassing safety analysis approaches.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor Degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Heljanko, Keijo, Supervisor, External person
Award date7 Oct 2016
Place of PublicationEspoo
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6959-3, 978-951-38-8448-2
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6958-6, 978-951-38-8447-5
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • model checking
  • automation
  • nuclear
  • PLC
  • Function Block Diagram
  • faulttolerance
  • instrumentation and control I&C
  • iterative abstraction refinement
  • compositional minimization
  • formal verification
  • safety system
  • structure-based testing
  • test generation


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