Thursday, April 16, 2015

How WANO & INPO Measure Excellence in Nuclear Operations

Anthony R. Pietrangelo
The following is a guest post from Anthony R. Pietrangelo, NEI's Chief Nuclear Officer.

Achieving one great year of performance for an industry or an individual is noteworthy. Sustaining exemplary performance over a decade or more is the true measure of excellence. The U.S. nuclear energy industry’s long-term performance is documented by the performance indicators monitored by the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) and the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO).

Why are these indicators so important? They are used as a management tool by nuclear operators to monitor their performance and progress against their peers, to set ambitious goals for improvement, and to benchmark the best practices of operators worldwide.

According to the 2014 industry performance indicators, U.S. nuclear energy facilities set or approached record levels of performance in many categories. Nuclear power plants have multiple safety systems which, if ever needed, can be used to safely shut down the plant. A key indicator of their performance is availability, which is known as “safety system performance,” This indicator tracks the time period the systems are able to perform their safety functions. In 2014 these systems were available 96 percent of the time, the second-highest level since 2005. Demonstrating the consistency of performance in this area, the annual availability of safety systems has always been 93 percent or more since 1999.

Safety and reliability of electricity production go hand-in-hand. The median capability factor of U.S. nuclear plants in 2014, a measurement of the amount of time a plant is on line and producing electricity, was 91.7 percent. A high capability factor means a plant is successful in reducing unplanned outages and completing scheduled work efficiently during planned maintenance and refueling outages. This is the 15h straight year the industry’s median capability factor has topped 91 percent—the best capability of any electricity generating source.

Nuclear plants schedule planned shut downs for refueling and maintenance in the spring and fall when electricity demand dips. Thus, they are generating power when it is needed most during the sweltering summer and frigid winter months. The industry works diligently to avoid “unplanned” reactor shutdowns, and in 2014 the industry set a record for the fewest unintentional interruptions in electricity production dating back to 2003 (link).

What does this mean for residential and commercial customers? It’s an assurance that their homes and businesses will have electricity when they most need it.

It is no surprise that this commitment to safe operations also breeds one of the safest working environments, with a record-setting 0.03 industrial safety accidents per 200,000 worker-hours in 2014. This record is well below the industry’s 2015 goal of 0.1 accidents per 200,000 worker hours. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that it’s safer to work at a nuclear power plant than in the manufacturing sector, leisure and hospitality industries, and the financial sector.

Congratulations to the nearly 100,000 dedicated men and women who work at U.S. nuclear energy facilities or with industry suppliers. Together they demonstrate an extraordinary and lasting commitment to safe, reliable operation.

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