Fleet IS for France reactors

16 April 2013

A programme launched more than six years ago to renovate the nuclear information system for EDF’s French reactor fleet was rolled out in 2012 at Blayais NPP. By Yves Corre, Dominique Minière, Jean-Marc Herodin and Jacques Leclercq.

In June 2007, EDF decided to implement a programme to renovate its nuclear information system (called Système d'Information du Nucléaire or 'SDIN' in French). The system is a central technical component in the industrial management of EDF's 58-unit reactor fleet in France.

The project was born around 2005, after EDF's engineering operations department (DPI), which comprises about 40,000 employees, noticed that fleet performance did not meet expectations. This observation was reinforced after roughly two years of research and benchmarking operations carried out abroad. The results showed that operators, particularly in the United States, obtained better performance figures. It also became evident that American nuclear power operators had made a considerable effort to renew their dedicated information systems.

Following on from these studies DPI decided to undertake several major projects that would contribute to:

  • Increasing availability by ensuring the reliability of the outage management (AP 928) and equipment reliability (AP 913)
  • Ensuring the use of common methods and practices between NPPs (Project Standardization and BMA)
  • Reinforcing the cooperation between engineering and operations
  • Overhauling spare parts logistics (AMELIE)
  • Succession planning (ARC) (skills management)
  • Improving housekeeping (OEEI), and more.
  • This approach required a reliable Information System, but it quickly became evident that the existing nuclear IS, with its low scalability, could not handle these new processes and data.


The overhaul of the Nuclear Information System concerns roughly 28,000 EDF users and more than 5000 outside users (such as service providers) at about 30 nuclear plants. Users mostly work in operations and maintenance, engineering (construction, modifications and deconstruction) or document management and production support.

There are three main aims of the upgrade: performance (including safety) improvement, set-up of the technical conditions allowing lifetime extension beyond 40 years, and incorporation of lessons learned from the accident at Fukushima.

The scope of the overhaul is summarized in Figure 1. On top of updating the software programs, the project also involves modernization of IT infrastructure to allow long-term scalability and system flexibility.

For operations, an integrated software program, Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) was selected. For engineering, overhaul of some technical data, CAD drawing and Operational Engineering Process (OEP) management applications was slated. The overhaul also aimed at obtaining a common document management system. Documents were previously dealt with in two different ways depending on whether the operations or engineering department was concerned.

IT solutions

The overhauled IS is based on an integrated set of tried-and-tested commercial software programs, replacing about 60 existing applications. The main programs are detailed below. However, the IT architecture will not be dealt with. We need only mention that it represents significant progress in the field by applying the most recent SOA (Services Oriented Architecture) concepts.

The six primary functions and software programs are:

  1. Operations and Maintenance management: EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) with Asset suite (published by Ventyx /ABB)
  2. Document management: ECM (Enterprise Content Management) with Documentum (published by EMC2)
  3. Outage and power cycle project management: Project Management software with OPX2 (published by Planisware)
  4. Drawing and diagram management: CAD software with Autocad
  5. Operational reporting: BI (Business Intelligence) program with BusinessObjects (published by B.O./SAP)
  6. Unified access to IS: Portal program with Websphere (published by IBM).

Project overview

In all, the project can be divided into four phases: general design, production, pilot deployment and rollout. On top of the ten-year span, there was a two-year emergence phase, which preceded the set-up of the project management team in late 2006.

Over 40 firms (including companies that contributed to the BMA project, see 'Execution' below) were significantly involved in this major project. It is evident from Table 1 that all the software providers had to learn to work with the systems integrators, with the support of experts.

The important dual role of the coordinating EDF programme team should also be underscored. First, EDF acted as coordinator of the solutions and architecture implemented on-site with the outside technical partners (and the EDF IT teams). Second, it also coordinated the relationship with the EDF nuclear craft worker groups, whether operations or engineering-oriented.

A major project such as the renovation of the nuclear information system is a 'cross-functional' project. This, of course, meant there were some difficulties adapting to the often innovative solutions selected.

In total, over the project's ten years, 250,000 man-days for outside service providers and 150,000 man-days for EDF are expected to be mobilized.

Four phases

The emergence phase involved a review of the solutions deployed in the EDF fleet from 1985 onwards. The review was followed by a detailed comparison to the solutions selected by the American operators. It ended with a management-level mission to the United States, with visits to several operators (Duke Energy; Southern Nuclear), publishers (Documentum and Indus, which would become Ventyx/ABB) and IBM, as integrator. This mission, in June 2005, proved decisive. It led to the establishment of a year-long guideline process and the set-up of the project team.

As of early 2013, three of the four project phases have been completed: general design, detailed design and pilot deployment. The rollout phase is estimated to last four years.

General design

During the general design phase, three processes were initiated simultaneously:

  • Analysis of 'lessons learned' from other operators, in particular Ontario Hydro and Entergy with CapGemini, and Paks in Hungary with Ventyx. Furthermore, a mission focusing on management aspects was organized in 2007 with Exelon, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, and the US Nuclear Energy Institute
  • Detailed analysis and composition of the specifications for the management model to adapt the software program for French operational practices. Significant work was done on the specifications over a period of one year. The spirit of the management model matches the American Standard Nuclear Performance Model (SNPM) developed by INPO with operators, and their AP 913 (equipment reliability) and AP 928 (work management) processes.
  • Choosing the software programs and IT architecture; a two-year process during which several demonstrators were developed.

Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) is one of the key components of the system set up. Here we would like to reiterate that SDIN only covers technical management; information concerning purchasing, inventory and finance as well as human resources is dealt with elsewhere under a very complete program called PGI developed with SAP for the entire EDF group.

This being said, many craft groups come under the nuclear operator heading and many technical applications needed to be embedded: outage and power cycle projects, operations and maintenance management, support services, logistics and tools, resources and qualifications and certifications, radiation protection, and so on. The purpose of EAM is to deliver these various functions.


Guiding principles for developing management model specifications

Endow applications with a systematic result and performance management system tailored to each level of responsibility

Provide a consolidated vision of facility condition and performance (technical assets)

Reinforce control of design and operating guidelines and their upgrades

Ensure improved capitalization through lessons learned (operating experience)

Better use of the fleet system effect and ensure the smooth flow of operational engineering processes

Operationally translate standardized requirements

Define multi-craft integrated management processes; EDF players and service providers

Ensure facilitated and integrated access to information and communication.

A call for tenders was launched with the main suppliers: Ventyx, the supplier of Asset Suite (now taken over by ABB), SAP, MRO (Maximo) now taken over by IBM. The selection process was over one year long and included the production of demonstrators. Upon completion of the process EDF selected Asset Suite by Ventyx/ABB, well-known in the nuclear community with systems installed in over 150 units across the globe.


During the execution phase around 350 people (100 from EDF and 250 service-provider staff) worked together at the project headquarters in Chatou, near Paris, on the detailed design of the various software programs corresponding to the management model, and to prepare for pilot implementation of the system at the Blayais NPP in southwest France. This stage took around two years.

Simultaneously a separate project -- called BMA (Activity Model Library) -- designed to standardize processes and best practices and to refresh and reinitialize data, moved forward. This was also a significant programme; nearly 100 people were involved over four years from 2009. Work was subsequently taken over by a sustainable structure in charge of standardized data governance for the 900 MW and 1300 MW plant series.

Pilot site at Blayais

The four-unit (900 MW) Blayais NPP is the pilot site for the new information system.

In 2010, an initial version of SDIN (V1.1), focusing on document functions through its ECM component, was placed into service at Blayais and in the operation-engineering pilot units, CIPN at Marseille and SEPTEN in Lyon. Roughly 1 million documents, including national operations guidelines, national spare parts listings and plant operation documentation for Blayais NPP, were migrated from existing systems. At the same time, around 2500 users were trained on the system.

Furthermore, to allow all employees of the nuclear engineering and operations department (DPI) to consult the national reference material, a simple document search and query tool (ORD) was also put into service in all the units. Today, 28,000 people have access to this reference material.

In early 2011, a second version of SDIN (V1.2) was delivered. It covered outage and power cycle activities for power plant operation/maintenance. Standardized data for the 900 MW plant series, prepared by the BMA project, and Blayais NPP data, in particular from the old system SYGMA, were loaded into the system. An outage and power cycle project simulation campaign, held over a six-week period, allowed about 70 NPP technicians to use the tool in depth.

In May 2011, based on the lessons learned from this simulation, the Blayais plant manager decided to prepare for execution of the 2012 outage campaign using the new information system.

In the second half of 2011, Blayais continued the initialization of its data in SDIN, prepared the power cycle and outages for 2012, and pursued change management with future users. To complete the experience acquired during the simulation campaign for future users but also to update the training provided in 2010, Supplemental sessions based on use case studies of the solution in a simulation environment were held for about 1000 people.

During this phase, programme experts were assigned to the NPP to reinforce start-up support and ensure the responsiveness necessary on location to handle difficulties encountered by craft groups: the programme assigned about 20 permanent on-site staff. Following these preparatory actions, SDIN went into operational use at the plant in early 2012; from 9 January for power cycle activities and from 3 March for the first outage campaign (the ten-yearly inspection of unit 1).

At the end of March 2012, after an initial look at the operational use of SDIN, the Blayais plant came up with about 50 functional upgrades for the system. Most of these upgrades were provided in the V1.3. version, released at the end of 2012.

Lessons learned: Data

The phase that is ending for Blayais, and the initial preparatory work at Dampierre, have led to a number of lessons learned:

  • The local site project (PLU) must be set up prior to the data cleanup phase
  • Complete national data and cleaned-up local data is required before NPP data can be loaded into SDIN
  • The initialization of NPP data in SDIN requires work on the appropriation of new AP 913 maintenance programmes, standardized by the BMA project (problems in the quality of these data were cleared by the pilot site)
  • Securing the preparation of outage campaigns under SDIN hardens modular preparation commitment milestones and does not allow the progressive delivery and initialization of data
  • Many craft changes are introduced upon deployment of SDIN (multi-specialty, AP 928 etc.), resulting from a managerial desire expressed through the management model. The preparation of the units to these changes is an indispensable prerequisite to the success of future deployments.

An important lesson is that data operations represent a significant workload for the NPPs. At each plant, substitution resources are planned to compensate the time spent by the teams in cleaning up, loading and initializing the data.


Since March 2010, more than 41,000 hours of training has been carried out: 35,000 to Blayais NPP technicians and 6000 to subcontractors and others.

The training system is supplemented by a case study system set up in early summer 2011. Lessons learned are that participation in training sessions is a prerequisite for participation in the case studies. Likewise training attendance is a prerequisite for obtaining access rights to SDIN.


Upon completion of the pilot phase -- upon whose success general deployment of the system rests -- lessons learned can be drawn highlighting the impact on craft groups of SDIN-related changes (they will be observed in each unit during roll-out), and SDIN?deployment support needs.

SDIN implements the AP 928 process on the management of power cycle activities, which implies a significant change for workers involved:

  • Activity planning that requires earlier anticipation (10 weeks) -- the reactive team must be reinforced
  • A larger role assigned to the IS planning tool in which the power cycle team must be proficient
  • The initialization of power cycle data that is more complex than that of outage data.

The Blayais experience has shown that after about one month of operation, power cycle planning was well-mastered, and the appropriation of SDIN tools was effective.

SDIN also includes the overhauled maintenance programs of the AP 913 project, standardized by the BMA project. In practice, the use of standardized documents leads to significant changes in professional practices:

  • Maintenance worksheets are written differently
  • The breakdown of activities into tasks is different: it can substantially increase the time spent on reporting and document management with an increase in the number of work files
  • Tensions may appear between methods planners and work coordinators in light of the workload generated by the significant volume of changes during the initialization phase
  • Significant anticipation is necessary as a result of the modular planning of the outages, which requires that the planning of all tasks be complete four months before the start of work.

Plant support

SDIN is deeply woven into the projects of the Nuclear Production Division that it supports: AP 913, harmonization of documents and practices, setup of plant series structures, power cycle projects and modular planning of outages, and so on. The related changes (new maintenance programmes, worksheet standardization, task structuring) must be anticipated and simultaneously accompanied by the deployment of SDIN.

The experience at Blayais shows that plant support must rest on two main components:

First, a significant system for training future SDIN users. For a four-unit NPP, the volume of training has been reassessed at 45,000 hours

Second, a startup support system in the form of a dedicated team proved essential during the different phases of service opening.


Following the operational use of the SDIN solution in 2012 at Blayais for a complete cycle of operation (power cycle and outage), it appeared that two functional domains required improvement in the short term: the multi-year management of major maintenance operations and tagging management.

Multi-year management of major maintenance operations is an essential tool in controlling investments. EDF's investments in its nuclear fleet will increase significantly in the coming years. The company is undertaking a new investment cycle which includes the massive overhaul of nuclear plant unit components and a significant improvement of their safety level. The aim of these investments is to extend the operating lifetime of the plant units beyond 40 years and to meet the criteria of post-Fukushima safety assessments. As a result, the volume of modifications and exceptional maintenance operations will more than double in the next few years and considerable human resource and financial requirements in engineering and operations are foreseen.

The SDIN solution must thus be enriched with a multi-year IS that aims to build and optimize the local (plant) and national (fleet) planning of these operations. By ensuring the integration of all the operations, the multi-year IS will be an essential tool in controlling investments.

Tagging management is a key point of operational performance. Comparisons with other operators showed areas for improvement at EDF in tagging and alignment practices, in particular in the volume of tagging systems to deliver and set up. For an outage at a nuclear plant EDF will have to deliver 3000 tagging systems; other operators manage 1000 or less.

Furthermore, during the pilot phase of SDIN at Blayais, the use of the tagging solution currently included in EAM Asset Suite (ETO module) proved cumbersome and poorly adapted to EDF's tagging practices. EDF's nuclear management decided to maintain the tagging solution of the former IS (AIC).

In a context where the number of maintenance operations will double in the coming years, these issues will become even more critical.

EDF thus plans to upgrade its tagging and alignment practices and obtain an appropriate and reliable tagging IS to be incorporated in SDIN. This is expected to:

  • Reinforce the safety of operators and serenity of all the players by simplifying operations
  • Reduce the number of tagging systems during outages by 60%
  • Reduce waiting time at the tagging office by decreasing tagging system volume
  • Accelerate operating feedback on equipment by anticipating alignments
  • Reduce the number of Safety Significant Events (SSE) on alignments
  • Reduce the dosimetry of field technicians
  • Facilitate the activity of service providers by harmonizing practices across the fleet.


Yves Corre, EDF Senior Vice-President is Head of Industrial Support Generation and sponsor of the SDIN programme. Dominique Minière is EDF Executive Vice-President - Head of Nuclear Power Plants Operations. Jean-Marc Herodin is EDF Technical Director of the SDIN programme. Jacques Leclercq is Chairman of JAL Consulting.

Blayais NPP
Figure 1: The upgraded Nuclear Information System
Figure 2: IT solution- software packages
Project partners & timeline

Privacy Policy
We have updated our privacy policy. In the latest update it explains what cookies are and how we use them on our site. To learn more about cookies and their benefits, please view our privacy policy. Please be aware that parts of this site will not function correctly if you disable cookies. By continuing to use this site, you consent to our use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy unless you have disabled them.