The TMI-2 accident occurred in 1979. In 1983 the plant owner, General Public Utilities Corp. (GPU), received a report* from Adm. Hyman Rickover (the “Father of the Nuclear Navy”) recommending that GPU be permitted by the NRC to restart the undamaged TMI Unit 1 reactor. We are not concerned with the report's details or conclusions but one part caught our attention.
The report begins by describing Rickover's seven principles for successful nuclear operation. One of these principles is the “Concept of Total Responsibility” which he explains as follows: “Operating nuclear plants safely requires adherence to a total concept wherein all elements are recognized as important and each is constantly reinforced. Training, equipment maintenance, technical support, radiological control, and quality control are essential elements but safety is achieved through integrating them effectively in operating decisions.” (p. 9, emphasis added)
We think the foregoing sounds like version 1.0 of points we have been emphasizing in this blog, namely:
- Performance over time is the result of relationships and interactions among organizational components, in other words, the system is what's important.
- Decisions are where the rubber meets the road in terms of goals, priorities and resource allocation; the extant safety culture provides a context for decision-making.
- Safety performance is an emergent organizational property, a result of system activities, and cannot be predicted by examining individual system components.
We salute Adm. Rickover for his prescient insights.
* Adm. H.G. Rickover, “An Assessment of the GPU Nuclear Corporation Organization and Senior Management and Its Competence to Operate TMI-1” (Nov. 19, 1983). Available from Dickinson College library here.