IAEA Publication: Knowledge Loss Risk Management in Nuclear Organisations

 

BEIS has issued a Ministerial Statement to both houses of Parliament (Commons and Lords) with regard to policy in the light of leaving euratom. It proposes a twofold approach of (1) “negotiations with the European Commission to seek a close association with Euratom and to include Euratom in any implementation period negotiated as part of our wider exit discussions”; and (2) “to put in place all the necessary measures to ensure that the UK could operate as an independent and responsible nuclear state from day one.

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It might do well to read a recent publication from IAEA Knowledge Loss Risk Management in Nuclear Organisations. This sees challenges resulting from an aging workforce, an industry that runs plant for several decades with different skill sets being required for design, build, operate and decommission stages leading to changing workforce and management. The long duration of nuclear projects also results in issues of technology obsolescence and the need for the introduction of new skills such as cyber security. In the UK we can add the risks posed by the free market “policy” that is resulting in a series of very different prototypes being built or proposed.

This is an issue that should concern BEIS because, of course, the average tenure of a civil servant in a particular influential post is very short compared to the nuclear project duration. They need to ensure that they maintain the knowledge, skills and systems to understand what the NDA, operators, ONR, the environment agencies have been tasked to do and how well or badly they are doing it.

The IAEA document seeks to increase awareness among nuclear organisation managers of the need for a strategic approach and actions plans to identify and manage the risks of individual and organisational knowledge loss.

The IAEA projections show the number of nuclear reactors operating in the world rising, with most of the growth in countries that already have a nuclear industry. Within this picture reactors are retiring and will take experienced resource to decommission them. An even greater cause of need for new recruits is expected to be the loss of skilled and experienced workers to retirement, internal transfer or promotion, or resignation. One scenario for the USA shows 19,000 new positions and 63,000 new hires by 2030.

The IAEA propose a Strategic Workforce Planning system that is composed of a cycle of Workforce Analytics, Workforce development, Execution and Metrics and Business Unit Planning.

They call for a “Coherent intervention by governments, industry, universities and R&D organisations” to provide a feed line of skilled and competent workers.

In the UK the NDA fund R&D in the area of nuclear decommissioning to meet its obligations under the Energy Act “to promote and, where necessary, carry out research in relation to its primary function of decommissioning” and “to ensure that there is a skilled workforce available to undertake the work of decommissioning” (NDA University and Research Strategy). Various universities offer nuclear power material to undergraduates and postgraduates (For example: Manchester, Bristol, Leeds, and Cambridge). These have different levels of direct links to the industry and it is not entirely clear that the situation can be called a “strategy” or described as “coherent” but it does (presumably) provide a feed of skilled (but not experienced) youngsters for the industry.

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Figure 1 Knowledge devlopment from IAEA NG-T-6.11

Figure 1 shows the IAEA view of the relationship between workforce planning and knowledge management. Those new to the industry are likely to spend some working, learning and training before becoming independent competent workers and then some further time before achieving recognition as an expert in their field. The art of knowledge transfer management is to ensure that, where an expert leaves for any reason while their skills are still needed, a suitable replacement is ready to take the post.

On the industry side, workforce planning is required Site Licence Conditions 12 and 36 (below). This leads to systems which identify key skills, suitably qualified and experienced personnel and succession management.

 

Licence Condition 12:

Duly authorised and other suitably qualified and experienced persons

1 The licensee shall make and implement adequate arrangements to ensure that only suitably qualified and experienced persons perform any duties which may affect the safety of operations on the site or any other duties assigned by or under these conditions or any arrangements required under these conditions.

2 The aforesaid arrangements shall also provide for the appointment, in appropriate cases, of duly authorised persons to control and supervise operations which may affect plant safety.

3 The licensee shall submit to ONR for approval such part or parts of the aforesaid arrangements as ONR may specify.

4 The licensee shall ensure that once approved no alteration or amendment is made to the approved arrangements unless ONR has approved such alteration or amendment.

5 The licensee shall ensure that no person continues to act as a duly authorised person if, in the opinion of ONR, he is unfit to act in that capacity and ONR has notified the licensee to that effect.

 

 

Licence Condition 36:

Organisational capability

1 The licensee shall provide and maintain adequate financial and human resources to ensure the safe operation of the licensed site.

2 Without prejudice to the requirements of paragraph 1, the licensee shall make and implement adequate arrangements to control any change to its organisational structure or resources which may affect safety.

3 The licensee shall submit to ONR for approval such part or parts of the aforesaid arrangements as ONR may specify.

4 The licensee shall ensure that once approved no alteration or amendment is made to the approved arrangements unless ONR has approved such alteration or amendment.

5 The aforesaid arrangements shall provide for the classification of changes to the organisational structure or resources according to their safety significance. The arrangements shall include a requirement for the provision of adequate documentation to justify the safety of any proposed change and shall where appropriate provide for the submission of such documentation to ONR.

6 The licensee shall if so directed by ONR halt the change to its organisational structure or resources and the licensee shall not recommence such change without the consent of ONR.

The IAEA recommend a knowledge management team and define a list of participating roles and stakeholders for a typical nuclear power plant and the team’s main functions. It then outlines an Organisational Competence Loss Risk Assessment methodology. Among other tools this suggest a risk matrix which lists the skills requirements in each area and maps who, within the organisation, has those skills. This leads to the identification of those areas at risk of knowledge loss and the development of an Action Plan to restore the situation.

Another tool assesses the skills and knowledge of any employee nearing retirement, promotion or otherwise likely to leave their current post and initiates an Action Plan if appropriate.

The remainder of the document provides tools, forms, guidance and case studies.

 

Author: Keith Pearce

Emergency Planning and Health Physics consultant and author

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