PÖYRY INSIGHTS / 30 Jun 2017
GIS and Nuclear Hazard Management
Potential benefits and possibilities of Geographic Information System (GIS) are numerous, and it is beginning to make in-roads into consequence assessments in high hazard industries such as the nuclear industry.
The importance of GIS for hazard assessment and hazard management derives from the fact that hazards and consequences evolve over distance/location and GIS is built to process location and time-based data. With GIS it is possible to provide striking, visual representations of data. GIS can be used to deliver a great deal of additional information concerning the relationships and trends between people, places and things that might otherwise have gone unnoticed inside a spreadsheet or report without the use of GIS techniques.
What is GIS?
A Geographic Information System (GIS) is a computerised system for capturing, storing, processing, and displaying location based data. GIS can show many different kinds of data on one map. This enables people to more easily see, analyse, and understand patterns and relationships. Watch this short video for an introduction to GIS (source: ESRI Ireland).
GIS is able to work across a number of user interfaces. It can work on PCs, tablets & smart phones (just think of Google Maps). Outputs can also be exported to pdf files and hardcopy print outs.
Unlike a paper map, GIS can overlay many different kinds of data on the same map in a visual, and user friendly form. This enables people to more easily see, analyse, and understand patterns, relationships and trends in order to discover how they relate to each other.
Another benefit is that GIS is interactive and often allows users to access a large variety of data that does not or cannot appear in an onscreen or printed map (again, Google Maps is a good example). A person can click on a location on a GIS map to find additional information stored in the GIS about that location. For example, a user might click on a building to find it’s name, manager’s contact details, inventory and safety documentation.
Many different types of information can be overlaid and compared using GIS. The system can include information about the locations of buildings, emergency response locations, infrastructure such as roads, drainage networks and electric power lines.
As the source data is stored in computer memory, it is easy to add new data layers. This can allow for data such as aerial photography, 3D scanning (e.g. LIDAR), and radiometric or chemical surveys to be integrated into the GIS source data. As it happens, one way that data can be recorded is by means such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (refer to this article on application of UAVs).
GIS then allows the individual layers to be linked. Analysis of the information can then be undertaken manually or automatically using the statistical and analytical tools that are provided as part of the GIS.
People working in many different fields use GIS technology. City officials use GIS to help plan their response in the case of a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane. GIS maps can show these officials what neighbourhoods are most in danger, where to locate shelters, and what routes people should take to reach safety. Many businesses use GIS to help them determine where to locate a new store. Scientists use GIS to compare population growth to resources such as drinking water, or to try to determine a region’s future needs for public services like parking, roads, and electricity.
GIS in Hazard Management
The importance of GIS for hazard assessment and management issues derive from the fact that hazards and consequences evolve over time and distance/location and that GIS is built to process location and time based data.
Consequence contours (see Figure 3 for an example) can be overlaid with site maps to assist manually performed consequence assessments. Risk assessment programs can even be programmed within the GIS to automatically calculate potential consequences and risks. By illustrating the potential damages that can be caused by the hazards, GIS helps planners to take appropriate actions.
GIS will therefore become an indispensable aid in the process of hazard assessment and hazard management.
Figure 3 - GIS can map out, illustrate and even calculate the consequences of an accident (image shows consequence contours for a potential accident).
Pöyry’s experience of GIS usage in nuclear & non-nuclear industries
Although relatively novel to the nuclear industry, there have already been some previous applications where Pöyry has been involved in using GIS in nuclear hazard management projects:
- Nuclear Domino Effects Analysis & Nuclear Consequence Assessments (article available during Summer 2017)
- GIS based Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) in site selection studies to select between 2 possible sites for a nuclear waste repository
Outside of the nuclear industry, GIS has been used in applications such as hazard management, Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) and asset management. Areas where Pöyry have experience in include:
- GIS based Quantitative Risk Analysis (QRA) in site selection studies to determine the best route for a chemical pipeline
- GIS based environmental risk assessment of wastewater pumping station overflows
- Management of water & hydropower resources (see Pöyry and ECREEE use big data to prove the case for small scale hydropower development in West Africa)
- Asset management of high voltage (HV) electrical transmission & distribution (T&D) infrastructure
Benefits to the Client
GIS mapping of accidents & their consequences provides a powerful and simple tool to:
- Illustrate the potential effects across a large site from an accident to people, buildings and services
- Present complex technical information to a multi-discipline or non-specialist audience
- Provide mapping data which can be quickly & easily overlaid with other information (e.g. infrastructure, evacuation routes etc.)
- Aid consequence assessments that are performed manually. Furthermore, consequence assessment programs can even be programmed within the GIS to automatically calculate potential consequences and risks, helping speed up calculations where a large number of assets and populated buildings are being considered in assessments
- Better inform the client’s planning arrangements against the potential accidents
- Provide a simple, powerful tool to help check if underlying calculations or hazard management arrangements are appropriate
- Identify where more refined consequence assessments can improve hazard management arrangements.
Opinion: "A picture paints a thousands words"
GIS is a new technology to many people in the nuclear industry. Even so, Pöyry have learned that GIS overlays are very powerful in bringing together and illustrating "the bigger picture" to a multi-discipline or non-technical audience in a way that has simply not been feasible before. GIS greatly enhanced their ability to ask intelligent questions about the scenarios being presented to them. That will enable significantly more refined safety & planning arrangements.
Furthermore, the GIS maps can be quickly & easily overlaid with other information (e.g. infrastructure, proposed evacuation routes, proposed prevention/mitigation locations etc.) according to the needs of future planning projects.
The visual images can also help check if underlying assumptions look sensible & appropriate or seem to have unwarranted pessimisms. This prompted a review of the underlying assumptions, which have previously allowed us and the clients to implement more realistic assumptions, leading to reduced consequences, and for planning arrangements to be based on more credible scenarios. That allows for a “right first time” plan to be written in advance of the event which can be further refined as the accident scenario unfolds.
It's hard to predict precisely what could happen in an accident, due to variables which will always exist outside the control of the calculations. However, even a best estimate can be a huge help to decision makers who can use that information to develop plans for the prevention or mitigation of that accident. By putting consequence assessment data into GIS format, we can develop illustrated risk maps to highlight the potential impact of accidents, therefore helping planning arrangements.
GIS will therefore become an indispensable tool in the process of hazard assessment and hazard management across large sites.