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Risk Mitigation and Management

Risk mitigation and management are fundamental steps in any efficient project execution. Systems Engineering in general, and INL Systems Engineering in particular, develops advanced tools and techniques to maximize the efficiency of risk management efforts.

  • Technical Risk Management - Many of the programs developed at the INL have a high degree of technical risk or uncertainty. Based on tools developed by the DoD and NASA, along with some specific advances made at the INL, technical risks are identified in balance with the Technology Readiness Level (a way of measuring technical maturity) of the system in question to give an ability to estimate how much uncertainty remains in terms of project cost or schedule. This ability is vital to being able to give a prediction for total project costs or schedule that will not be exceeded later due to appearance of new risk.

In addition to providing information needed for predicting cost and schedule, uncertainty needs to be factored in when selecting between two or more alternative in terms of criteria other than cost or risk. Historically, decisions have been made based on the best guess of the performance of the given alternative with respect to a set of decision criteria that identify the goals or desires of the customer. That best guess can be off by quite a bit, especially if the decision needs to be made early in a project when the technologies are still maturing. The INL has developed special methods for analyzing and visualizing uncertainty as it relates not only to cost and schedule, but also to other performance criteria so that the range of performance possibility is understood and can be factored into the final decision. This may lead to the realization that the time is not right for a decision, and more information needs to be gathered.

The final piece to the technical risk management puzzle is the development of the plan to reduce the risk and uncertainty. By linking existing efforts to both known risk resolutions and technology maturity advancement, the overall uncertainty reduction rate of the plan can be predicted and shown. Such visualizations, called risk waterfall diagrams, serve as both a check on the system as plans are executed to see that uncertainty is being reduced as expected, and as a feedback mechanism to assure the technical and project managers that the plan has been developed in a way to reduce uncertainty as fast as possible.

All of these tools are combined to form a technical risk reduction strategy, sometimes referred to as a technology roadmap. The tools can be applied to non-technical, programmatic risk areas as well, including economic, stakeholder, and political risk. See the longer write-up for more details.

Risk Mitigation and Management Fact Sheet

Contact Information:
  • Bob Caliva, Defense and Energy Systems
    (208) 526-4653 robert.caliva@inl.gov
  • John Collins, Nuclear and Environmental Systems
    (208) 526-3372 john.collins@inl.gov
Department of energy

DOE Office of Nuclear Energy
DOE-Idaho Office