WANO sees harmonisation as a key goal for nuclear operators

22 November 2017

Harmonising the training of contractors to access multiple nuclear facilities in the USA is one example of ensuring safety amid pressures on the industry to cut costs and remain competitive, Peter Prozesky, CEO of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, told World Nuclear News in a recent interview. This approach is one answer to the industry's need to align its procedures, as outlined in World Nuclear Association’s Harmony initiative, he added.

Any operator or owner of a nuclear power plant or nuclear fuel reprocessing facility, and any non-governmental organisation that has an important impact on nuclear safety, can apply for membership of WANO. The London-headquartered organisation has members from every nuclear power plant currently in operation across the world.

Best practice

Unveiled in September 2015, the Harmony initiative states that the global nuclear industry should aim to achieve a 25% share of world electricity production by 2050 by adding 1000 GWe of new capacity. To achieve this, World Nuclear Association has outlined three objectives - a level playing field for nuclear among sources of electricity generation, a harmonised regulatory process, and an effective safety paradigm.

Asked about the Harmony goals in an interview on 25 October, Prozesky said one of WANO's key roles is to look for examples of the most effective approaches to nuclear safety and to share best practice. He referred to the Delivering the Nuclear Promise initiative in the USA, which is a collaborative effort over the last two years to find ways to improve performance efficiency without reducing safety.

"[US operators] are certainly delivering really good cost saving initiatives. For example, whenever a contractor waits to go in and work in a nuclear site, it would take him probably between one eight-hour day to two eight-hour days to become qualified to have unescorted access on that site," he said. "The training they needed to go through for radiation protection, access control, safe working arrangements, was typically one to two days. They have now harmonised their training across the US, so that once you have been trained on one site that authorisation is now valid for all the sites across the US. That has already saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in contractor man hours."

Having a wide variety of regulatory standards around the world is not only holding the industry back in terms of growth, it is also a potential pitfall in terms of nuclear safety

WANO has observer status at the board level of World Nuclear Association and Prozesky is therefore "very familiar" with the three Harmony goals, and WANO is "clearly very supportive of many aspects" of them. It has also "engaged directly" with the work of the Association’s working group on Cooperation in Reactor Design Evaluation and Licensing (CORDEL), which promotes standardisation of nuclear reactor designs on the merit of improved economics and safety.

Prozesky stressed that WANO's mission is "clearly driving for the safety of existing nuclear power plants", and it is "not an advocate of nuclear power". He said WANO is careful it is not seen to be promoting the industry, but rather as a "critical observer" driving industry safety standards.

"We have to be careful with how exactly we endorse or support Harmony because clearly Harmony is driving the objective of meeting the climate change targets using nuclear power and that is not WANO's mission at all; we have no mandate from our members to promote the technology, we are here exclusively to observe safety," he said.

"Nevertheless, having a wide variety of regulatory standards around the world is not only holding the industry back in terms of growth, it is also a potential pitfall in terms of nuclear safety," he said. An example of this is the response to fire safety standards following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in March 2011.


Operators and employees of 122 nuclear power plants in 34 different countries and areas gathered in Gyeongju, South Korea on 15-18 October for WANO's Biennial General Meeting (BGM). Its BGMs are closed meetings, but a key topic discussed at this year's event was the "gravitation from West to East" of nuclear industry projects, he said.

"The shift in the centre of gravity from a WANO point of view means putting more of our focus on support, as opposed to assessment, particularly around new units. We need to make sure we are putting more of our collective energy into supporting those new units as they go through construction and commissioning, and bringing them into service in a safe and robust way," he said.

The BGM also discussed the challenges of electricity market pressures, particularly in Europe and North America and the impact this is having on the nuclear power business and the need therefore for robust diligence and strong corporate oversight by each WANO member to ensure the industry continues to operate safely, he added. This is an issue for the Harmony goal of a level playing field.

Another "engaging topic" is societal risk, he said. This is "so much dependent on the national culture that there is no absolute means of measuring acceptability of risk".

Referring to the Japanese industry post-Fukushima, he noted the "huge preoccupation" with reduction of risk.

WANO has a role to play in public acceptance of nuclear power, he said.

"WANO, to be an effective conscience for the industry, needs a degree of confidentiality in terms of what it finds when it goes and has a look at a member's plant. We can be far more aggressive and forthright in what we write and in the way in which we address plants that are further from excellence if it can be assured that what we say is confidential. So, unlike the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is required to publicise what they find when they do an OSART mission, WANO says what we find we will keep confidential. However, where we can perhaps help the public is to tell them what we do and how we do it and that should give them a degree of confidence that the industry is very strongly self-policing."

Chief executives at the BGM shared the performance of the industry in a very transparent way, he said, which "helps to apply peer pressure to those that need to move forward". This approach should give assurance to the public that the industry is serious about safety, he added.


The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), which is headquartered in Atlanta, USA, has been downscaling its international activities since mid-2016, and Prozesky has been chairman of its International Safety and Reliability Steering Committee since February. WANO has also taken over responsibility for the INPO International Participant Forum and replaced it with a Chief Nuclear Officers' Forum. The first meeting for this will be in December this year, in Paris.

The Committee is now a broader-based international meeting because not all operators in the world used to be members of INPO, he said.

"It pretty much excluded the Russian Federation and the Former Soviet Union bloc countries, for obvious reasons, and they were always outside of that very valuable forum. With WANO running it now we are opening it up to everybody and we'll get a much better product as a result."

International members of INPO also have access to event reports on US nuclear power plants, but WANO "picks up 95% of that anyway, so there's not a huge difference", he said. They also had an INPO assessment rating at the end of their peer review process.

"With WANO, post-Fukushima, also implementing an assessment process on the same 1-5 numerical scale, that service is now offered by WANO, so it's no longer unique to the Atlanta Centre and to the US plants," he said.

WANO has also been expanding its cooperation with other organisations, including World Nuclear Association, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), OECD-Nuclear Energy Agency and International Youth Nuclear Congress.

Each of the organisations has its own "specific niche", Prozesky said. The IAEA focuses on regulation in its member countries, while WANO is a member organisation of nuclear power plant operators. But the two bodies have common interests and programmes, such as WANO's peer reviews and IAEA's Operational Safety Review Teams (OSART). They share methodologies and sometimes personnel, he said.

OECD-NEA also focuses more on countries and on regulators than on operators, but it collaborates with WANO on areas such as improving understanding of nuclear safety culture.

INPO launched an initiative three years ago to bring together organisations, including IAEA, OECD-NEA, WANO, Japan Nuclear Safety Institute and China Nuclear Energy Association, to talk about how to avoid duplication of effort, he said. For example, WANO and IAEA share their calendar of events and programmes, so that peer review and OSART missions do not overlap.


WANO has a formal signed confidentiality agreement with each of its members. Any third party who wishes, for legitimate reasons, to have access to that information may do so on the basis that they also sign a confidentiality agreement. Confidentiality applies equally to the positive findings as it does to the negative, Prozesky said.

"Confidentiality means confidentiality of everything, and if information does get out publicly, then we would find a situation where people at the power stations would perhaps not be as open with sharing their weaknesses with us and it's really important for us to have a completely open and transparent relationship; it's not in their interest to hide anything because if they do then they can't improve, and they can potentially cause a problem for everybody else in the industry. We do find occasionally defensiveness and we work to get people to open up, but we have to do it in the spirit of trust."

There was a long debate among the governors of WANO after the Fukushima accident about whether WANO should publish its reviews in the way IAEA publishes its OSART reviews. WANO concluded it could be transparent about why and how it works, but not about what it finds, he said.

Further developments

At the BGM in South Korea, WANO launched its second iteration of Compass, in which is outlined its strategy for 2018-2022. The foreword of the latest document states that a "consistent message from all sources, and therefore the main change in our strategy" is that WANO and its members need to provide more support to improve plant safety and performance.

"With limited resources and challenging economic pressures for many members, support activities must focus on the most significant safety and performance issues, in particular, supporting those further away from excellence as well as new entrants and new units to help them start up safely and reliably," it says. "WANO will also review the location of the support activities, particularly with the growth in nuclear generation in Asia, to ensure that they are being provided in the most efficient and effective manner."

The focus areas in Compass are: continue to support and set the standards of high performance of the world's existing nuclear fleet; build and maintain a highly trained, professional workforce in WANO and improve the effectiveness of the governance arrangements; forge a more effective WANO through more consistent, credible products and programmes, including providing nuclear leadership development; and instil superior standards among new units and new industry entrants.

WANO is studying developments in digital technology and how these are affecting its members.

"The design of control rooms in the 1960s didn’t change much right through the 80s and the early 90s; you had operators walking around, operating switches on panels. Modern controls rooms are completely different; the operators sit behind a bank of cathode ray tube screens, using a mouse or a track ball, and are starting and stopping pumps by selecting things from the keyboard. That brings challenges for us in terms of how supervisors have oversight of the activities in a control room and how we assess performance," he said.

"But it's a very interesting time for us to go through because there are huge benefits to effectiveness and efficiency, to reducing human error. Instead of an operator, or a maintenance person going to wrong piece of equipment, they now have a hand-held device with which they scan the barcode, which tells them they are in the right place.

"WANO has to adapt and we expect our members, not us, to be the innovators."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News