WANO tries some self-assessment1 October 1998
Keeping an organisation responsive to its original intent requires a continuing effort. Over the last year the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) has carried out a rigorous review of its operations in the same spirit of self-evaluation that it advocates so strongly to its members, leading to exciting new initiatives.
Initiated by WANO’s former chairman, Rémy Carle, in the spring of 1997, what has been dubbed WANO’s Internal Review is now nearing completion. “The review was far reaching and thorough, examining all aspects of the organisation’s structure, effectiveness and efficiency,” says WANO chairman Zack Pate, who pledged to carry out the review before assembled WANO members at the last Biennial General Meeting in Prague.
“You could say that WANO has turned its own peer review process on itself,” says Vince Madden, director of WANO’s Coordinating Centre in London. “By the end of 1998 we will have conducted peer reviews at nearly 40% of our members’ sites. It seems right that we are scrutinising our own internal operations now.”
AIM OF THE EXERCISE
The aim of the exercise was to find out what WANO members really wanted from their organisation. And members have expressed their views fully and frankly on the strengths and weaknesses of WANO to two former WANO governors Ray Hall and Bob Franklin, who, charged with carrying out the review, interviewed nearly 200 members, governors and WANO staff. As memories of the Chernobyl accident – that acted as a catalyst to the formation of WANO nine years ago – start to fade, members still consider WANO has an important role to play. According to Ray Hall members unanimously feel that: “The founding principles of a partnership between members lending mutual support to improve nuclear safety world wide are still applicable and the flexible regional structure which allows for cultural and language differences still serves members well.” WANO will continue to operate through its four regional centres in Atlanta, Moscow, Paris and Tokyo, with a Coordinating Centre in London.
This regional approach is one way of meeting the challenge of the language and cultural differences that make WANO such an interesting organisation, but that can at times complicate communication in what is a relationship driven business. WANO has been criticised for being a little remote from its members, and by some of being a little too US oriented in its approach. “This is perhaps a reflection of WANO’s reliance on INPO in its early years,” says WANO chairman Zack Pate, who was himself president and CEO of INPO (the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations). “We now make every effort to be truly international in our business approach, giving full due to the different cultures and ways of doing things.”
It was amply borne out by the Internal Review that the organisation should continue to focus on safety and reliability, and make this its core business. “The old adage that an incident at any nuclear power plant in the world affects our – the nuclear community’s – business is just as true today as when we were first formed,” said Vince Madden. So WANO’s mission, originally designed to end isolationism and bind the world’s nuclear community more closely together, still holds true and will carry WANO forward into the next century.
SHIFT IN PRIORITIES
This does not mean, however, that it’s business as usual. Within the overall aim of maximising safety and reliability there has been a strategic shift in priorities. Several practical initiatives are being introduced to reflect the changing needs of members and the fact that the nuclear community has changed substantially since the formation of WANO.
“We have rationalised the way our activities are organised and delivered to our members,” explains Vince Madden. In future there will be a little less focus on setting up exchange visits and twinnings as this activity now has a momentum of its own; plants are largely organising their own exchanges. There will be greater focus on those activities which have a more direct impact on safety and reliability, eg peer reviews and event reporting. More emphasis will be put on training and professional development through WANO’s new Professional and Technical Development Programme. Activities being considered include workshops for operations managers, seminars for peer review team leaders and workshops on the effective use of performance indicators
The peer review continues to be one of the lynchpins of WANO activity. Member interest in this activity is high and WANO’s goal is to carry out peer reviews at 50% of its plants by the year 2000. The ultimate goals of WANO peer reviews and the IAEA’s Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) missions are complementary and they use broadly similar processes. Both require considerable effort and resource on the part of the plant. In recognition of this WANO and the IAEA are working together to ensure that a peer review and an OSART are not scheduled within two years of one another, lessening the burden on the plant.
The existing activities of performance indicators, good practices and operator to operator exchanges are now grouped together in a new Technical Support and Exchange Programme together with WANO’s latest initiative, Technical Support Missions (TSMs). “TSMs were introduced to offer members practical solutions to problems that they have identified at their plants,” explains Vince Madden. “Like peer reviews they are voluntary and are carried out in response to a specific request from a plant.” Typically a TSM consists of a small team of experts from other members who apply their experience to propose solutions to a particular area or problem. They tend to be more focused than a peer review and deal with problems in a variety of areas such as outages, on-line maintenance, radiation protection and waste management. Most take about a week. TSMs were piloted last year, when they were known as Technical Services, and by the end of July nearly 40 had taken place. In one case WANO peers provided expert review and assistance to a member plant to help address specific reactor engineering and core design issues.
Taking advantage of the fast growing popularity of the Internet and the fact that increasing numbers of members are embracing this technology, WANO has overhauled its old communications system, NUCLEAR NETWORK®, which linked its members together in a wide electronic network. Since 1 July 1997 the WANO web site, a secure site on the Internet for members, allows members to exchange information on a wide variety of technical issues using news groups specially set up for this purpose. Event reports, press releases and details of good practices are just some examples of the information that is easily accessible to members on the site.
There are moves to change the format of WANO’s next Biennial General Meeting to one that focuses much more on issues affecting senior utility management as well as plant managers, such as the challenge of maintaining a high safety culture in times of electricity market deregulation.
While WANO’s focus will remain on sharing information on mainly operational issues, members are increasingly interested in decommissioning, life extension, the treatment and storage of low and high level waste, public advocacy and other current issues. The Internal Review has shown that there is a demand for more WANO involvement in these issues. While there are no immediate plans to introduce specific programmes targetting these areas “I see no problem in extending our existing programmes, particularly TSMs, workshops and seminars to include these areas,” says Vince Madden. The year 2000 issue is clearly also exercising members, and WANO is making specific provisions for the exchange of information on this topic through its Web Site, workshops and seminars.
THE PAY OFF
And what is the pay off of all this activity? The overall trend in the industry is for improvement in safety, reliability and performance. The WANO Performance Indicators (see Nuclear Engineering International July 1998) show this upward trend clearly. “Of course this is not solely due to WANO, though we have helped contribute to this,” says Vince Madden. “The level of support members have given and continue to give, in activities such as peer reviews, show that our members value us. And the Internal Review backs this up. As we seek to enhance our services, we are looking to increase the resources needed to deliver these services to our members.” Atlanta Centre has increased its staffing dramatically over the last two years and a significant increase of staff in the Paris Centre is planned. And members have demonstrated their support for WANO by seconding staff to its centres.
In addition to carrying out more peer reviews and TSMs, these additional resources will be channelled into improving WANO’s event reporting service. With an average of 150 event reports submitted by members annually, efforts will be made to improve the quality and value of the reports produced and distributed to members. “We are aware that most feedback engineers are overwhelmed by paperwork,” says Vince Madden. “So we’re trying to ensure that they only get the reports that they really need, and that these reports are of real practical benefit.” Over the last two years this has involved more analysis of events and the production of a “hit list” of the most important events which have significant learning points that warrant wide member attention. In August WANO published the first of a new type of report, the Significant Operating Experience Report (SOER). SOERs, applicable across a wide range of plant types, are developed to explore the underlying causes of safety impairing trends or to analyse a single significant event. They will also recommend what actions members should take to avoid such events taking place at their own plants.
Has increasing competitiveness influenced the exchange of information that has hitherto been so free between WANO members? “We are often asked this question,” says Vince Madden. “So far there have been no indications that this is the case. I strongly believe that senior utility executives recognise their shared vulnerability and hence the importance of exchanging information.” The levels of participation in WANO suggest that competitiveness has not had a negative impact on WANO. As an example of this continuing spirit of co-operation all WANO members have agreed to share their plant specific performance indicators with all other WANO members.
In fact, statistics in the US have amply demonstrated that plants with low costs tend to be outstanding safety performers. Recent studies by the Nuclear Energy Institute have shown that as US nuclear plant performance has increased over the past years, costs have decreased. So it could be argued that increasing competition may actually increase participation in WANO, as members reap the benefits of increased safety, reliability and the economic performance that follows. However, as members come under increasing economic pressure, this has a knock on effect on WANO. “For WANO to succeed, we need to be responsive to our members,” explains Vince Madden “we’re conscious of the need for efficiency and to provide value for money to the members who fund us through their subscriptions.”
In the minds of many WANO is linked with the East-West exchanges that characterised its early years. These exchanges continue, particularly under the Moscow Centre - Paris Centre Advisory Committee, as a special project designed to meet the specific needs of some members. But plants in Eastern Europe and the former USSR are now much more integrated in the world wide nuclear community than could ever have been imagined ten years ago. Fully fledged WANO members they now participate in WANO’s programmes equally with all their peers. And it is WANO’s biggest challenge to ensure that this global co-operation continues well into the next century.
|• Founded: May 1989 • Mission: To maximise the safety and reliability of the operation of nuclear power plants by exchanging information and encouraging communication, comparison, and emulation amongst its members. • Membership: Over 430 nuclear power plants in 32 countries • Organisation: 5 centres in Atlanta, Moscow, Paris, Tokyo and London • Activities: Peer Review Programme Operating Experience Programme Professional and Technical Development Programme Technical Services and Exchange Programme|