WANO 30 years on

25 February 2020

As the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) marks its 30th year, Peter Prozesky reflects on his time as CEO and outlines the organisation’s priorities for the future.

PETER PROZESKY – A SELF-CONFESSED ‘change agent’ – became chief executive officer (CEO) of the World Association of Nuclear Operators in January 2016 after a 39-year career working in the power business, including the nuclear industry in South Africa, Taiwan and the UK.

“My whole life in the nuclear industry been characterised by continuous improvement,” says Prozesky, who during his four years at WANO has been responsible for completing the implementation of the organisation’s comprehensive response to the Fukushima Daiichi accident of March 2011.

WANO was established in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl accident; an event which ended any illusions that the world’s nuclear power plant operators could work solely within the confines of their companies or countries. The organisation was set up with a mission to maximise the safety and reliability of nuclear plants worldwide by working together to assess, benchmark and improve performance through mutual support, exchange of information and emulation of best practices. Today, WANO has offices around the world — in Atlanta, London, Moscow, Paris and Tokyo plus a new office scheduled to open in Shanghai in 2020 — and it represents more than 120 members who operate more than 430 civil nuclear power reactors and facilities around the world.

“WANO, being a voluntary organisation, was started with every nuclear operator at the time. It’s an achievement that 30 years later we still have every nuclear operator in the world, voluntarily, as part of our membership,” says Prozesky.

Nevertheless, the organisation has evolved significantly since the early days. “Initially, we had very limited products and services — mainly just sharing operating experience and events and some very rudimentary performance indicator data,” Prozesky recalls. “Since then, WANO has continued to grow its scope of services uniformly across the world to include peer reviews, corporate peer reviews, pre- startup reviews, and more.”

So, have we seen better performance over the years as a result of these efforts? Prozesky says that since the inception of WANO the industry has seen as “significant improvement” in many of the key performance indicators of the nuclear business — things like the number of automatic scrams on reactors, on collective radiation dose, on unit capability factor. While WANO can’t take the credit, it certainly had a hand in “holding up the mirror,” he adds.

New unit assistance

Although WANO’s mandate will never change, it is continuously adapting and introducing new products to meet the needs of operators today, according to Prozesky.

For the past 30 years, he recalls that the nuclear industry has been relatively static in terms of the players. Now, we are starting to see the demographic shift from Europe and the USA — where many plants were built in the 1970s and 1980s — to Asia where most of the world’s reactors are currently under construction.

The nuclear industry has seen four ‘newcomers’ embark on nuclear power plant construction in the past decade: Belarus and the United Arab Emirates (where reactors are getting close to starting operation), as well as Bangladesh and Turkey.

Almost 30 more countries are considering, planning or starting new nuclear power programmes — a process that typically takes 10-15 years from initial consideration of the nuclear power option to launch of the first unit.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provides a comprehensive method to nuclear infrastructure development through its three-phase Milestones Approach.

WANO also supports new entrants and new builds through its New Unit Assistance service: a three-phase programme, which is delivered to operating organisations during the design, construction and commissioning phases. The programme includes 18 modules covering issues such as nuclear safety culture, operator fundamentals, organisational effectiveness and oversight.

At the end of the three stage process, WANO provides operational readiness assistance missions (ORA), pre- startup peer reviews (PSURs) and crew performance observations (CPOs), to help members determine their readiness to operate the new unit safely. Since 2016, WANO has completed over 150 New Unit Assistance missions for members in 12 countries, according to Alex Polyakov member support programme director at WANO. Experience also indicates that when new plants engage with and join WANO early — even before they start construction — they gain the maximum benefits.

Prozesky says: “Initially when we started PSURs we frequently saw teams raising start up related areas for improvement (AFIs). These are issues that WANO believes need to be addressed before fuel loading.

“Now it’s not the norm to identify start up related AFIs. This is due to early engagement with members through the New Unit Assistance programme, and through the benchmarking and training visits we bring to stations early on,” Prozesky adds.

One particular tool that has been helping is the Operational Readiness Assistance (ORA) mission. This comprehensive review of management systems needed to run the plant is typically deployed 12-18 months before fuel loading, giving members an indication of how they stack up to WANO’s performance objectives and criteria (PO&Cs), while allowing sufficient time to make any necessary changes before a PSUR.

Encouraging early engagement

WANO is now hoping to engage members even earlier — to set up a support plan at a time they sign contracts for nuclear plant construction.

“The nuclear community stands ready to help. The sooner new entrants can start drawing on the collective expertise of other reactors around the world, the better it is for them,” Prozesky says.

But this is no simple task as many of the new entrants are not familiar with WANO. The organisation is, therefore, collaborating closely with its counterparts at the IAEA, and is forging links with key reactor vendors which also play a significant role in developing the skills base.

Soon, WANO is planning to launch a roadmap to operational readiness. This document, created by a WANO- run industry working group and endorsed by the IAEA, will provide a ten-year snapshot of the factors operators should consider when building nuclear plant: from drafting a contract to getting a plant ready for fuel load and building up staffing capability. Importantly, the document brings in experience from new projects, including Hanhikivi (Finland), Hinkley Point C (UK) and Barakah (UAE). People that recently built reactors or are in the process of constructing them are collaborating on the document, which Prozesky believes could become the “cornerstone” for new entrants in future.

WANO has recently co-authored a white paper, with the IAEA and the Electric Power Research Institute on the support each organisation provides to new entrants to the industry, and the benefits of early engagement (see: https://www.wano.info/new-unit-assistance).

From assessment to support

One of WANO’s major achievements in the last 30 years, Prozesky believes, has been the introduction of the WANO assessment rating. Since September 2014, WANO peer reviews have given plants a rating from 1 (the highest) to 5 that captures their overall nuclear safety risk. This confidential rating provides CEOs with quantitative feedback and is a valuable guide to help them understand their utility/plant’s performance.

The focus over the past few years has been a drive to get all of the regions delivering consistent products and services, so that a rating from one WANO regional centre is equivalent to the same rating from another. Now this has been achieved WANO is looking to prioritise support.

“When we identify gaps to excellence we will be there to support, advise and direct people to where industry best practice is being displayed so they can go and learn from that,” Prozesky says.

“Our resourcing is very often focused on the assessment with peer reviews, corporate peer reviews, pre-startup peer reviews etc. eating up a lot of resource. We are going to have to deploy some of this resource into the support area.” This, he says, will require a transition to a more efficient assessment process over the next two to three years, a task that will be the responsibility of Ingemar Engkvist, who will succeed Prozesky as WANO’s CEO from January 2020.

This will be particularly important as WANO intends to use its assessment rating as a measure of success in future. "At the moment, there is a spread of ratings between 1 and 4," Prozesky says.

Leadership focus

Another strategic priority is leadership development. “From our assessments, we believe performance is being affected by the quality of the leadership and the way they manage their interface with people,” Prozesky says.

WANO has recently issued a new document on leadership effectiveness attributes, which was compiled by a team
of 16 experienced executives and plant managers, representing multiple utilities and diverse regional cultures from all four WANO regional centres and its London office. Contrary to popular opinion, which for many years has suggested that different cultures have different principles on how leaders behave, the document identifies a universal set of attributes, that when observed in a nuclear power plant, would give a strong indication that leaders are being effective. “This is a meaningful piece of work that will propel leadership development,” Prozesky adds. (The document can be found at: https://www.wano.info/ resources/nuclear-leadership-effectiveness-attributes).

WANO is also looking to create alliances with organisations that can help deliver nuclear leadership training in local languages.

WANO is willing to discuss and share experience with other industries, although Prozesky notes that the nuclear industry is “unique in the way it shares operating experience and the way it collaborates,” with few organisations in other sectors willing to open themselves up in a similar way.

Challenges ahead

So, as WANO looks ahead to the next 30 years, what are its main challenges and priorities, and will it need to adapt the way it works?

“WANO’s mission is simple and enduring,” says Prozesky. “Our job is to support members to operate plants and facilities to the highest safety standard and reliability.” The basic processes of WANO will not change, he says, although of course, the organisation will have to consider things like the emergence of small modular reactors.

“Small modular reactors will have a different risk profile to some of the traditional reactors we have seen,” Prozesky says, which could mean that some fundamental questions need to be addressed. But at this early stage of development, he says it’s difficult to know whether WANO will develop a specific set of processes related to SMRs.

On security, Prozesky says that although the culture of physical security and nuclear safety are aligning “more and more” and many of its members are looking to integrate nuclear safety and physical safety or security, this is not an area that WANO is looking to develop.

“Typically, our members see security as a national competence and are wary of sharing any information on this outside of companies or national structures,” Prozesky says. Nevertheless, WANO has collaborated with the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) to help it develop a cybersecurity peer review tool. WANO will also support request from members to host things like cybersecurity workshops or meetings.

Although WANO was created at the height of the Cold War, Prozesky says international tensions are reaching a level the organisation has not seen before, and are beginning to “get in the way” of WANO’s ability to carry out its mission.

In recent years, there have been instances where some of WANO’s employees — depending on their own nation’s policies — have been unable to participate in peer review and member support missions. These review missions require a mix of nationalities, experience and expertise to deliver the best possible safety oversight of and support to individual nuclear power plants.

Some positive news appears to be the recent appointment of Rafael Grossi as IAEA director general. Grossi, former head of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), has been a strong champion in support of export controls mission and has invited WANO and the World Nuclear Association (WNA) to host a joint session at next year’s Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) conference in New York on making sense of export controls.

WANO has a unique global role in working closely with commercial nuclear plants worldwide to enhance commercial nuclear safety and reliability. It is in the interests of every country, government, nuclear operator and the general public globally that WANO is able to fulfil its mission, a mission it says remains as unswerving as it was at the historical inaugural meeting in Moscow in May 1989.

About Peter Prozesky

Peter Prozesky started his career in 1979 working at Eskom’s Koeberg nuclear plant in South Africa. In 1989, he took a sabbatical working in the nuclear industry in Taiwan, later returning to Eskom where he held various senior positions until joining British Energy (now EDF Energy) in 2005. He was appointed chief executive officer of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) on 1 January 2016.

Prozesky has a Bachelor of Science degree (Honours) in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cape Town; a Master of Science degree in Nuclear Reactor Science and Engineering from the University of London; a Business Management Diploma from the University of Stellenbosch; and a Senior Reactor Operator’s Licence.

Peter Prozesky is stepping down from his role as chief executive officer of WANO in December

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