Monday, May 14, 2012

NEA 2008-2011 Construction Experience Report: Not Much There for Safety Culture Aficionados.

This month the Nuclear Energy Agency, a part of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, published a report on problems identified and lessons learned at nuclear plants during the construction phase.  The report focuses on three plants currently under construction and also includes incidents from a larger population of plants and brief reviews of other related studies. 

The report identifies a litany of problems that have occurred during plant construction; it is of interest to us because it frequently mentions safety culture as something that needs to be emphasized to prevent such problems.  Unfortunately, there is not much usable guidance beyond platitudinous statements such as “Safety culture needs to be established prior to the start of authorized activities such as the construction phase, and it is applied to all participants (licensee, vendor, architect engineer, constructors, etc.)”, “Safety culture should be maintained at very high level from the beginning of the project” and, from an U.K. report, “. . . an understanding of nuclear safety culture during construction must be emphasized.”*

These should not be world-shaking insights for regulators (the intended audience for the report) or licensees.  On the other hand, the industry continues to have problems that should have been eliminated after the fiascos that occurred during the initial build-out of the nuclear fleet in the 1960s through 1980s; maybe it does need regular reminding of George Santayana’s aphorism: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” 

*  Committee on Nuclear Regulatory Activities, Nuclear Energy Agency, “First Construction Experience Synthesis Report 2008-2011,” NEA/CNRA/R(2012)2 (May 3, 2012), pp. 8, 16 and 41.

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