Born again29 September 2000
Ontario Power Generation (previously Ontario Hydro) had its work cut out when it announced a recovery programme in 1997 that was to “address the major deficiencies in its nuclear operations”. Competition legislation had startled the company into a clean-sweep of ailing management, safety and maintenance systems at its Pickering, Darlington and Bruce plants that was to cost C$1.7 billion and take three years.
When performing well, Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) three nuclear stations could supply over two thirds of Ontario with low-cost electricity. “Our Candu technology is robust,” Bill Farlinger, company chairman told the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce in 1999, “However we need to overcome long-standing management, process and maintenance problems that have developed over the years.”
Farlinger was understating the obvious. Pickering and Bruce have been shut down semi-permanently because of maintenance problems. High prices, huge debts and outages spanning hundreds of days at each of the plants frustrate Candu technology that is reaching 100% availability in Korea, and struggles up to 60% at Darlington. OPG had to try to bridge the gap between its own miserable performance and the US industry average, or watch the customers it had inherited from Ontario Hydro disappear over the fence.
Two years into the recovery programme, OPG’s nuclear performance index, which is a weighted composite of nine performance indicators created by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), had reached a score of 71.7, up from 58.0 at the end of 1997.
Dubbed IIP (integrated improvement programme), OPG’s heroic effort to get better is couched in terms of deliverance as it reaches into the furthest corners of neglect and inefficiency. “It touches us all,” says Robert Nixon,” site vice president at Bruce.
By the end of 1999, all the stations had an IPP organisation staffed to assist with the implementation of the programme and approximately 40% of the IPP was deemed complete. The year ended on a high note, with a smooth rollover into 2000 and the completion of ISO 14001 certification throughout OPG Nuclear. Notwithstanding these achievements, third party reviews of the IIP from the AECB, WANO and the Independent Reviews Panel said that the implementation of the programme had been too slow and the number of initiatives to be completed concurrently was too high. Programme leaders took the criticism on board and changed tack for the remainder of the projects to be undertaken. “We have acknowledged these findings and a shift is occurring to move from an “activity centred” approach, to one which is “results oriented,” say’s the programme’s annual report.
In 1999, the IIP comprised 41 projects. Out of these, 20 were deemed to be “Focus” projects, accounting for 80% of the total programme cost. The 41 projects were grouped under 11 functional areas:
•Operations and maintenance.
•Health and safety.
Operations and maintenance
In operations and maintenance, examples of the programme’s achievements during 1999 included modifications to the shift structure to provide more control room focus and gaining AECB approval for the changes. Standard paint colours for units and equipment were chosen, tested and catalogued for each station; and 800 maintenance procedures were written for station needs.
Around 20% of existing maintenance procedures were upgraded. At Pickering, floors were removed and damaged concrete repaired.
Highlights of the engineering programme included:
•Implementing engineering change control processes at all three stations, to reduce jumper and ECN (engineering change notice) backlogs.
•Establishing a corporate procurement engineering role.
•Negotiating an industry standard toolset (IST) agreement between OPG, AECL, Hydro-Quebec and New Brunswick Power. This agreement allows resource sharing in the development, enhancement, qualification and maintenance of IST software.
•Establishing a 24-hour emergency response team at each station, and designing a process to control transient materials and a compliance monitoring database.
•Setting up a living programme to take feedback from fieldwork and use the data for future preventative maintenance.
Engineering programmes looked at specialised tools, processes, training, computer systems, plant equipment upgrades; and design documentation. Improvements included the testing of 577 of 1,377 (42%) of category 1 power operated valves, 22% of which required repairs and overhauling; training for more than 1400 personnel, and more than C$2 million in savings identified by preventative maintenance.
For the environmental qualification programme, 1999 was a turning point. Work began to replace components that cannot be qualified before 2003.
All environmental qualification activities were completed during the Bruce 8 outage, and poison prevention lines were relocated on two units at the station as part of ongoing powerhouse environment modifications.
Projects that fall within the technical support division are intended to improve performance in environmental stewardship, chemistry and work protection. A chemistry standards project upgraded specifications to industry standard, and established a governance structure for the chemistry programme. The EMS project led the initiative to register the EMS of OPG Nuclear to ISO 14001. In addition, 10,000 employees joined in a computer-based training course as part of the ISO 14001 certification.
A contaminated land project assessed various sites at Pickering and Bruce to determine whether they were contaminated with chemical or radiological materials. In addition, a network of 230 monitoring wells was installed at Pickering to chart the flow of groundwater beneath the site and assess the well-documented levels of tritium which have been found near unit 1 and the upgrader. A contaminated site at Bruce was closed when a tritiatised water spill was found and the results of the ensuing investigation were sent to the Ministry of the Environment for acceptance.
Sensitive noble gas monitors were installed at the fence line of the Pickering site, and project completed field testing of in-plant noble gas emission monitors at all the stations.
The radiological environmental monitoring system at Bruce was upgraded; and soil and groundwater investigations of the standby and emergency generators, the Pickering A transformer area and an old transport and work equipment garage were completed. The sediment from the catch basins and manholes at all sites was also cleaned out.
A major portion of the work to improve contamination control in 1999 was directed at standardising instrumentation and equipment at all the stations.
Modules to improve the work practices of staff involved in radioactive work were put in place. This initiative has now led to the installation of devices that will control contamination at source, and included a staff-training course that took place in the first half of 2000.
At Pickering, the potentially radioactive area within the reactor building was significantly reduced. All stations have new rubber area equipment and hazard signs to bring them into compliance with radiation protection procedures. They have also installed new monitors: Bruce has 11 small article monitors (SAMS), Pickering 10 SAMS and 29 whole body monitors, and Darlington five SAMS and two portal monitors. “We have achieved much better control of contamination in the station,” says Daniel Oancea, the health physicist at Pickering. “We have installed 29 new whole body monitors that are much more effective in detecting contamination than the old hand and foot monitors.”
Health and safety
The IIP trained 1800 employees in office ergonomic awareness and assessed each participant’s working environment to prevent computer-related repetitive strain injuries. Special training in back injury awareness was completed at Darlington.
The highlight of 1999 within the information technology division was the Year 2000 project, which was launched in August 1997. Only three slight Y2K anomalies were reported. OPG had no incidents affecting nuclear safety, the environment, generation, reliability nor security, so the objectives of the project were all met, within budget.
Ron Osbourne, president and CEO of OPG said the Y2K team had demonstrated “extraordinary project management.”
Other IIP information technology projects included piloting an electronic document management system curator to reduce costs in document management. An information management system for training use was also introduced.
Training began in the new Darlington learning centre at the end of 1999, and the chemical laboratory training facility is 75% complete. A desktop simulator was designed, assembled and commissioned, and is now in use at Darlington. Over 30 first line manager courses were completed, with a further 10 scheduled for 2000, and 44 labour relations training programmes were conducted.
The need to improve security at OPG had been highlighted in an independent 1995 review, and again in OPGs own assessment in 1997. IIPs security project involved the creation of a new nuclear security policy and programme, and a number of standards. The new governing documents were developed to meet the expectations of the new regulations and incorporate security practices in use by “top quartile” nuclear utilities in other countries.
OPG Nuclear rolled out the new security programme through training of nuclear security officers and managers at all three stations.
Improved security measures at Bruce as a result of the IIP include hand geometry enrollment of all 4,000 employees, trained security guards, identification officers, security systems control maintenance and new turnstiles. New turnstiles have also been fitted at the Bill Gearing Gatehouse at Darlington.
The licensing basis project developed a framework for documents to meet the requirements of the new Nuclear Safety and Control act. This framework is being used in the licence renewal process for Bruce A and Darlington and will be used for licence renewals at other stations.
A fully trained staff complement of qualified regulatory analysts was developed to support regulatory affairs, and a regulatory analyst certification programme was initiated.
Stan Harvey, the vice president of managed systems, admits that the IIP still has its work cut out in the managed systems division. Two areas of progress have been the FLM academy and the process standardisation programme already mentioned. The project has also completed the deployment of all PassPort modules across OPG Nuclear and turned over the ongoing management and maintenance of PassPort to line management.
“A more comprehensive plan to improve and stabilise the PassPort environment is currently being developed, including the upgrade to a new revision in early 2000,” says Dave Mullen, vice president of IT systems.
The results of the performance assurance project have included the development of an independent oversight function that satisfies regulatory requirements and is consistent with industry standards. The IIP has also built an assessment attribute library and topical specification matrix to help with the preparation of oversight activities and demonstrate compliance with AECB requirements. Also new is a performance evaluation report at the stations, which provides an overall evaluation of station performance by functional area.
The IIP continues under the stewardship of Andy Schwabe, who took over from Brian McGee as vice president in November 1999. Schwabe is bullish about the completion of the programme now that OPG has reprioritised projects in line with WANO’s recommendations, and says: “The foundation for nuclear excellence is in place. Already performance has improved at the sites, with less forced outages contributing to increased production, a better trained and skilled workforce resulting in fewer human errors, and an elevated professionalism in our maintenance programmes and standards.”
TablesAiming for the 90s Average annual load factors at end June each year (1992-1999) and lifetime load factors to end June 1999