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      The technical and engineering departments on French sites are gaining momentum. Functional system reviews are satisfactory, being completed collaboratively with the maintenance engineers, even though they are perceived to be ‘done for Paris’. The current objective is to better use these reviews as part of the industrial asset management programme. The multi-year programme has been neglected over the past few years, but the sites have now started to focus again on this area. There is a concern about the work planners; monopolised by the nuclear technical information system, their role as a technical adviser is being eroded.

      La FARN du Bugey en exercice a la centrale de Saint Alban

      It is important to transition from a singular mindset of compliance (with company programmes, instructions and requirements) to that of ownership, which was not visible enough during my visits.

      Behind the indicators, the reality of activities and situations

      Even though the indicators are good, errors rooted in organisational and human factors call for greater focus on awareness, skills and behaviours. Incidents illustrate that rigour and control are not always at the required level, for instance:

      • Injection of 1100 litres of borated water into the core instead of 30 litres (see Chapter 7), and on another reactor, a dilution of 2500 litres instead of an expected 100 litres.
      • An uncontrolled reactivity increase in the core following the redirection of cold water from an AGR in outage to the other reactor at power.
      • An error of closing four steam inlet valves on the wrong reactor caused an automatic trip.
      • A lack of rigour in the use of an APE procedure following a reactor trip caused a 17-hour leak from a relief valve on the primary system.
      • Administrative lockout of an actuator in a closed position on a reactor building’s biological shield door while the door was still open.

      Reflecting on past events also develops a strong collective memory and nuclear safety culture, and I commend the DPN’s publication of an aide-memoire of such events. Remarkable both in content and in form, I recommend that everyone consult it regularly.

      Our history of nuclear events
      EDF fleet and global experience feedback

      Safety Booklet
      our history of nuclear events flipbook 2

      In both fleets, too many sites remain in difficulty (see 2021 report). Acknowledging the reality, the means of assessment, and identification of such sites, have all improved substantially. Support from corporate services still lacks efficiency, even if some initiatives have been helpful, such as increased presence on sites, inter-site and function reviews, targeted support visits, and WANO member support missions (MSM).

      Surveillance en salle de commande a Cattenom
      Standardise operations in France

      Nuclear professionals must always demonstrate rigour and competence, and even more so for operations teams. In France, despite 40 years of experience in operating a standardised fleet, their operational practices are inconsistent. Standardisation of practices is even more necessary since I have seen some truly good examples. In the UK, control room practices are standardised and reflect international standards.

      In France, the balance is yet to be established between what should be handled by management and what falls to real-time negotiations with trade unions: management must be able to define rules, schedules and practices. During strikes, I consider it abnormal to stop increasing the power just after reaching criticality, at 0.5% of nominal power: this decision should not be taken by operators. A cold-eye review of this situation is necessary.

      Technical management of operations by the central services is progressively taking shape in the DPN; this is an essential function, and we are starting to see the initial benefits. It sets the practices by going back to basics and dealing with technical and organisational subjects. Pragmatic and very encouraging, this initiative calls for managerial alignment and collective participation on all sites. It cannot be dissociated from the work on operations skills (see Chapter 8).

      The in-field work in partnership with WANO since 2020 to cover operator fundamentals and the role of lead operator has delivered improvements. The objective at the operations and engineering training department (UFPI) is now to bring this mentorship back in-house.

      At Nuclear Operations, the initiatives targeted at operator fundamentals continue, including the line of sight to the core initiative. It is now becoming clear, here too, that we must work more on behaviours.

      Fire: the number one risk

      Fire is the number-one risk for the Group’s industrial facilities, which is why it must be prioritised by all site management teams and all staff. Collective and managerial commitment does not seem to be consistent enough to me.

      I witnessed some very good examples, particularly where there are large numbers of volunteer fire-fighters, close relations with the local fire and rescue services, active preparation by the operations teams, and frequent realistic and managed drills using equipment in operational conditions. The local response centre at Paluel is an organisation that has attracted my attention, being well equipped and manned by its own staff. Yet I still come across risk prevention departments and fire safety coordinators that feel unsupported and isolated.

      From a fire prevention and propagation perspective, I now rarely see fire doors open but I know the situation can vary depending on the period. Fire load management remains a general problem. Above all, I reiterate the importance of vigilance and field presence during the implementation of preparatory work for the fourth ten-yearly outage (VD4) with units in service, which presents significant risks: work in sensitive areas, fire loads, openings in fire barriers, inhibited fire detection sensors, etc.

      I will be monitoring the implementation of operational fire-fighter units (professional fire-fighters based on sites too remote from the nearest fire station), while being conscious of the questions of recruitment and integration on site that this will pose.

      In the UK, the oldest AGRs have weaknesses in fire compartmentation. Compensatory means have been implemented but have not been able to fully mitigate the shortfalls. This is why the fire detection and suppression systems must be maintained in perfect working order, which is not always the case.

      The accident at Three Mile Island is a stark reminder of the fact that not everything can be foreseen, which explains the transition from event- based operating procedures to a state-orientated approach. Too many scenarios are now being incorporated into this state-orientated approach, at the risk of losing the original philosophy, and making it more complex and less effective for the most probable scenarios.

      transition numerique a saint alban
      Managing the unexpected: emergency preparedness

      As a complex system, a nuclear power plant will give rise to the unexpected. Operating procedures cannot cover everything: we need to agree where they end, and emergency preparedness takes over. Preparing to deal with the unexpected requires training, understanding of physical phenomena, definition of scenarios, emergency drills, and familiarity of the operation and deployment of equipment in the field.

      In France, I note that operations teams are not sufficiently included in the management and organisation of emergency drills. Yet field operators will be carrying out activities or interconnecting systems alongside the Nuclear Rapid Reaction Force (FARN), therefore practice is essential. I reiterate my call for everyone to regularly practise the operations for which they would be responsible during an emergency. All the more so as plant configurations will constantly evolve with the fourth ten-yearly outages (VD4).

      Created after the Fukushima Daiichi accident to respond to unforeseen extreme events, the FARN maintains its equipment in good working order, develops its skills and trains. Drills with the plants tend to be too infrequent and deployed on a large scale. It would be advisable to carry out smaller-scale drills involving FARN and plant staff. The merging of the FARN and the national emergency response organisation (ONC), which is positive, should be exploited to this end.

      In the UK, the emergency response equipment could benefit from better maintenance and inspection.

      Higher standards: a question of leadership

      In France, the multiplication of processes, excessive proof-based management, and a co-management approach anxious to avoid industrial action have, over time, taken their toll on leadership. Being aware of the risks, understanding the countermeasures, developing skills, improving technical practices, instilling rigour and accountability, and demanding performance, are a question of leadership.

      WANO has mirrored this observation by placing leadership at the centre of performance improvement strategies. The DPN and Nuclear Operations are also following suit. This is reflected through the more technical-orientated management of the disciplines, and the replacement of the nuclear safety management guide at the DPN with a nuclear leadership guide. The messages conveyed by the DPN management, underpinning the START 2025 programme, are clear and firm; I fully support this direction.

      It is not a question of pitting the notion of ‘regulated safety’ against that of ‘managed safety’, but about getting back to the basics, i.e. managing risks and ensuring production. Risk management involves rules, procedures and traceability; they provide the means to an end, but they are not enough on their own.

      Today, nuclear safety necessitates fewer requirements but higher standards. Drive and tenacity are needed to be able to move away from an excess of documentation, processes and reporting, towards heightened rigour, accountability, competence, focus on technical practices, staff and the plant. In a word: leadership.

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