The World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) is adapting to ensure safety and performance improvements remain the top priorities of a growing industry, managing director George Felgate told World Nuclear News.
Formed in 1989, WANO has long enjoyed universal membership of nuclear operators and has built the trust needed to organise peer reviews of operations at every nuclear power plant in the world. While performance indicators have improved markedly over the years, improving further into the forthcoming nuclear expansion requires a certain re-invention of the body.
The package of changes unanimously voted through at WANO's biennial general meeting in February "is a re-commitment to the original principles of our founding fathers," said Felgate.
WANO's revised mission:
"To maximise the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants worldwide by working together to assess, benchmark and improve performance through mutual support, exchange of information, and emulation of best practices."
One goal is to make sure every new reactor is given a thorough, independent review before it starts up, either by WANO or the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA). While these kinds of review have been conducted in the past, Felgate believes additional resources and coordination will be needed in the coming years to "ensure focus on nuclear safety is what it should be."
WANO will gather experts with experience in pre-startup peer reviews from its regional centres into a team to be headed by a specialist at WANO London. Once suitable practices and documents are ready, at least one of these core team members will take part in every pre-start review.
And besides new reactors, WANO is reaching out to new countries wishing to become involved in nuclear energy with training, benchmarking and simply making sure they are able to visit a well-run plant.
The organisation is also adapting its membership structure to reflect the new realities of the nuclear industry. Today, any owner or operator of a nuclear power or fuel reprocessing plant has the right to become a WANO member. This is a big change from WANO's original arrangement, which saw only one ordinary voting member per country.
"Any CEO must ensure
their own facilities are
safe but also ensure
every other facility is
safe. It's part of their
commitment to investors
to do everything they can
to ensure absolute safety
and the one CEO that
doesn't believe in this
concept will risk the
investment of every
Managing Director, WANO
"That was the right approach at the time, but times have changed," said Felgate. "Our new membership structure recognises the fact that multi-national companies today have interests in a variety of countries and many nations are served by multiple corporations. Owners may also become members of WANO. They control the purse strings and can therefore have an impact on nuclear safety."
New involvement will also come with reactor vendors and technology suppliers. In the past, these have not had access to the confidential operational experience analysis and data WANO provides its member, but "it is important to nuclear safety that the next power plants are designed and constructed with that operational experience in mind to the extent possible." WANO is developing a special channel for that information, mindful of the confidentiality of its members.
In addition, WANO's governance will involve more executives at a higher level than before. An enlarged board of governors will include the chair of each regional centre (Paris, Moscow, Tokyo and Atlanta) as well as the "most influential CEO in that region" and another CEO picked by the regional board. Felgate said the change "puts direct involvement in WANO much more in the hands of the chief executives who have the greatest stake in nuclear safety in the world."
These company heads are hostages of one another when it comes to nuclear safety. "Any CEO must ensure their own facilities are safe but also ensure every other facility is safe. It's part of their commitment to investors to do everything they can to ensure absolute safety and the one CEO that doesn't believe in this concept will risk the investment of every other."
Finally, the revisions include the fundamental one of updating WANO's mission "to capture the broader range of activity that we are involved in today, which covers peer reviews, professional and technical development, operational experience exchange and technical support," said Felgate.
World Nuclear News interviewed
George Felgate in April 2010