Peter Prozesky became the chief executive officer of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) in January 2016, after a career working in the nuclear industry in South Africa, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

One of his most significant achievements since joining WANO, Prozesky says, has been finalising the new strategic plan – Compass 2018-2022 – through member engagement. The latest iteration of Compass is the first revision of the plan published in May 2015. It has four main priorities, including a goal for WANO and its members to provide more support to improve plant safety and performance.

“Since I’ve come on board there has been a restructuring of London, with a desire to provide better analysis and insight back into the industry,” says Prozesky. The Operating Experience division has been refocused as a Performance Analysis team, while the Technical Support team has been renamed Member Support to more accurately reflect its organisational and process-related activities.

“Currently, there is a shift within WANO to move some of our assessment capacity so that we can devote more resource and attention to bringing solutions and support to the table,” Prozesky says.

Given limited resource and the economic pressures facing some of its members, WANO notes support activities must focus on the “most safety-significant performance issues”. That will involve an additional focus on members further away from excellence, as well as new entrants to nuclear and new units.

WANO has now begun pre-startup reviews and is launching a 17-module assistance programme for new units. To enable rapid learning the new-unit support capability will be “primarily based in one office in a location close to the majority of new units,” according to the latest Compass plan.

Efforts to improve harmonisation across all regional centres have also “moved on well”, according to Prozesky. In September 2014, WANO introduced assessments, giving plants a rating from 1 (the highest) to 5 that captures their overall nuclear safety risk. Significant effort has been expended to ensure consistency between regions, and alignment is getting stronger although there is, as always, still work to do, Prozesky says.

About 70% of the plants have been assessed on four-yearly peer reviews and given a rating. Most achieved 1 or 2, with some in category 3 (meeting the requirements of high standards of performance) and very few in 4. Prozesky notes that plants on the lower end of the scale need to have an improvement plan, around which WANO will develop a support strategy. WANO is now assigning representatives, essentially ‘account managers’, to each unit to lead the support effort.

Full strength

WANO has increased its resources significantly since the Fukushima accident with all of the WANO centres now at “full strength,” according to Prozesky. In 2011, 139 staff worked across the four sites in Atlanta, Moscow, Tokyo, and Paris, as well as the London office. Today about 120 full-time equivalents are working in the Tokyo centre alone. Tokyo saw the largest expansion taking it from just 27 staff in 2011.

Like most organisations across the nuclear sector, WANO is not immune to skills issues. “It will always be a challenge for us finding experienced people who can do the business of WANO,” says Prozesky. Most of WANO’s resources are seconded in a two to a five-year rotation; it can sometimes take a while to build up the skills needed. For example, it could take a manager with significant industry experience two to three years to become a peer review team leader.

Prozesky says WANO is keen to attract people earlier in their careers so they can build a knowledge base about international best practice and take those skills back home to use them there.

“People often come into WANO at the end of their career,” he notes. “They are capable of delivering a lot to WANO because they are very experienced, but the utility doesn’t benefit when that person goes back having learnt a lot themselves. We often encourage members to send the next generation of leaders.”

Utilities can also send their younger workers as counterparts on peer reviews of their own plants, while WANO offers short-term assignments at its regional centres.

Maintaining focus

Generally, nuclear safety has continued to improve. Post-Fukushima there were changes to some of the fundamentals, notably in the way facilities prepare for the unexpected. But it is important for the industry to maintain its focus on safety.

“The ethos and culture in the nuclear industry are to improve continuously, and I believe we are doing that,” says Prozesky. “The moment we stand still, we go backwards. To become complacent and say we have arrived at a point where we are safe enough shouldn’t be in our DNA. The biggest risk that we’ve got in our business is complacency.”

The role of WANO, along with other international organisations, is to look for leading indicators of declining plant performance. The industry body does this through monitoring plant performance, carrying out corporate reviews and through its four-yearly plant peer review process. “We look to pre-empt performance issues and keep a good eye on safety system performance indicators,” says Prozesky.

The most recent safety indicators are all in a “good place”, although Prozesky notes there has been an increase in forced loss rate and SCRAMs recently. SCRAMs are precursors to safety events, says Prozesky, warranting further investigation now underway. The forced-loss rate issue is probably the result of outage extensions for post-Fukushima modifications over the last few years.

Looking to China

There has been a “shift in the centre of gravity” to Asia, where two-thirds of the world’s reactors are currently under construction. For the past few years WANO has been considering whether to open a regional centre in China; an idea that looks set to become a reality during Prozesky’s tenure. After 18 months of engagement with its members, including Chinese utilities, WANO has defined a high-level, three-phase deployment model for a centre in Shanghai.

The first phase involves the setting up of a branch office, staffed with around 40 people (eight senior staff, 20 locals, plus back office staff), which would fall under the control of the London office. It would later transition to a support centre, still under the control of the London office, but with the depth of skill and capacity to start supporting other regional centres. The final phase would be a full regional centre.

“We have not got any timelines fixed,” says Prozesky. “The branch office phase would be dependent on the skills initially brought in to the team. People will be sent to the other regions for training, and when we have sufficiently qualified people, we can transition to the support centre phase.”

“When the processes and office are functioning and capable of delivering all of the services a WANO centre should be able to deliver, there will be an assessment and we will be able to transition to the full regional centre,” adds Prozesky.

There are two essential prerequisites for the Shanghai expansion, expected to get go-ahead from the governing board in 2018. Members have said Shanghai must be an international centre (with members outside of China), and maintain independence and confidentiality. “Internationality is a vital component,” says Prozesky. “This is where WANO draws its strength with a diversity of views.”

The aim is for the Shanghai centre to grow organically. Currently, the Chinese membership is spread around the world: China General Nuclear is a member in Paris, China National Nuclear Corporation is a member in Tokyo, with other Chinese operator membership in Moscow and Atlanta. “We are not envisaging a huge relocation of membership to Shanghai,” says Prozesky. “WANO allows multiple affiliations and that is probably how we will start moving forward to grow the centre.”

Expanding its reach

WANO is also looking to help operators in areas outside of operation. For instance in the supply chain, where falsifications and counterfeiting over the last decade has damaged the reputation of the nuclear industry.

“There has been some discussion in the industry as to whether WANO should have a role in the supply chain,” says Prozesky. “The benefit is that we could help with transferring the WANO processes and safety culture into the supply chain. The downside is this would take away the focus from members and operator performance.”

Personally, Prozesky feels there is a role for WANO – albeit an indirect role – and he is looking to engage more positively with the supply chain without diverting resources from its core business.

Similarly, WANO has recognised the need to support its members facing end-of-life challenges. WANO is facilitating nine industry working groups and will publish industry knowledge and best practice guidelines on its website.

To help “ease the burden” on the nuclear industry, the body has also set up a steering committee with like-minded entities (the IAEA, NEA, EPRI and others) to discuss collaboration in parallel activities. It is looking to generate a database of activities and working groups to make them visible to the industry.

The next five years will see WANO continue its mission to maximise the safety and reliability of the world’s nuclear plants. Its four main priorities will be: continuing to support and set the standards for high performance of the world’s existing nuclear fleet; building and maintaining a highly-trained, professional workforce in WANO and improving the effectiveness of governance arrangements; forging a more effective organisation through more consistent, credible products and programmes; and finally, instilling superior standards among new nuclear units and new industry entrants.