Friday, January 23, 2015

Defense in Depth and Safety Culture from an IAEA Conference


A 2013 IAEA conference focused on the concept of Defense in Depth (DID) and its implementation at nuclear facilities.  It was a large-scale event with almost 50 presentations and papers.  The published proceedings* run over 350 pages.  This post focuses on the treatment of safety culture (SC) by the authors and presenters.  The proceedings started off well: SC was explicitly mentioned as a cross-cutting issue in the implementation of DID. (p. 1)  In addition, the conference itself was predicated on Fukushima lessons learned which, as everyone now knows, included SC shortcomings in both licensee and government organizations.

But on the whole the treatment of SC was something of a disappointment.  The presentations from Argentina, Pakistan and Vietnam mentioned SC in passing.  The presentation from Egypt discussed the regulator’s role in SC oversight at length. (pp. 302-304)  Only the following three presentations gave SC a featured role.

SC in WANO

The World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) presenter said this about SC: “Safety supposes that no operator feels isolated, or refuses openness and permanent self-questioning; it requests as well for WANO to ensure that cultural and sometimes political barriers do not hinder safety culture . . . . In WANO, we believe that management system and practices are at the centre of safety culture, and a full involvement of top management (CEOs) of our members is absolutely requested.”**

SC in Indonesia

Two papers discussed SC at different nuclear facilities in Indonesia.  Desirable SC characteristics at both facilities were based on INSAG-4.

The Experimental Fuel Element Installation (EFEI)

The abstract of this paper*** highlighted SC’s role at this facility.  “The application of safety culture in a nuclear facility is one way of DID implementation.  Safety culture aims at the performance of safe works, the prevention of deviation, and the accomplishment of quality operation.  It is in accordance with the first level of DID concept which is the prevention of abnormal operation and failures that is done through conservative design and high quality in construction and operation. . . The objective of safety culture implementation in the EFEI is to encourage workers to have a stronger sense of responsibility on safety and to contribute actively for its development”  The paper presented a laundry list of strategies used to strengthen SC including briefings, workshops, training, senior management visits, integration of safety into work processes, self-assessments, open reporting on safety incidents, open and timely reporting to the regulator, evaluation of safety performance indicators and an annual SC questionnaire.

The authors displayed a bit of realism when they said “Leaders cannot completely control safety culture, but they may influence it.” (p. 179)  They also said their questionnaire results indicated that EFEI SC is at Stage 2 (from IAEA-TECDOC-1329) where “Safety becomes an organizational goal.”  They want SC to evolve to Stage 3 where the organization believes “Safety can always be improved.” (pp. 187-188)

Kartini Research Reactor

This paper**** reported the findings of a SC self-assessment.  The method consisted of questionnaire responses reviewed by experts.  The assessment identified several good current practices in maintaining the safety status of Kartini reactor.  As supporting evidence, the authors noted the number of inspection/audit findings from the regulator went down while reactor utilization and operating hours increased over the past several years.  One opportunity for improvement was the need for more frequent dialogues between employees and managers.

Our Perspective

There is not much SC substance here.  The recitations on SC repeated familiar stuff you’ve seen in lots of places.  In other words, zero new information or insight.  The single page WANO presentation indicates their lowest common denominator audience is even lower than IAEA’s.  Perhaps there were technical issues discussed at the conference that are of interest to you.  Otherwise, don’t invest your coffee break in going through this lengthy document.


*  IAEA, International Conference on TopicalIssues in Nuclear Installation Safety: Defence in Depth — Advances andChallenges for Nuclear Installation Safety, Oct. 21-24, 2013 ConferenceProceedings, IAEA-TECDOC-CD-1749 (Vienna, 2014).  We are grateful to Madalina Tronea for publicizing this material.  Dr. Tronea is the founder and moderator of the LinkedIn Nuclear Safety Culture forum.

**  J. Regaldo, “WANO Actions to Reinforce the Operators’ Safety Culture Worldwide,” p. 147.

***  H. Hardiyanti, B. Herutomo and G. K. Suryaman, “Safety Culture as a Pillar of Defense-in-Depth Implementation at the Experimental Fuel Element Installation, Batan, Indonesia,” pp. 173-188.

****  S. Syarip, “Safety Management and Safety Culture Self Assessment of Kartini Research Reactor,” pp. 321-326.

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