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Fukushima Five Years Later: Focused on Operational Excellence

Bill Webster
This week is the fifth anniversary of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. To mark the event, we'll be sharing observations from leaders around the nuclear energy industry all week long on how the U.S. has absorbed lessons learned from the accident to make safe nuclear plants even safer. Today's contribution comes from Bill Webster, Executive Vice President, Industry Strategy for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations.

U.S. nuclear stations continue to perform at high levels of safety and reliability, as measured by internationally accepted measures of performance. Most notably, as we approached the end of 2015, industry median values for capability factor, forced loss rate, reactor scrams, collective radiation exposure and industrial safety reflect the best-ever performance of America’s nuclear energy industry and exceed the challenging five-year goals set for these indicators in 2010.

Early in the response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, industry leadership recognized that significant attention and resources were required to fully learn and act upon the lessons from the accident. Industry leaders also recognized this could dilute attention from the operational needs of the stations and committed to prevent operator distraction.

To facilitate this operational focus, the industry continued an on-going initiative to increase the engagement of workers at all levels and to expand their understanding of operational risk and the use of operating experience. This initiative was further expanded to include a focus on reactor operating fundamentals, particularly by the control room crews when responding to complex transient scenarios. Improvements in control room crew teamwork, training, and the timely resolution of equipment issues have contributed to a steady reduction in the number and severity of operational disruptions.

Several new initiatives were undertaken to continuously improve industry performance. Most important was an effort to enhance station and corporate leadership and teamwork through the application of proven leadership and team attributes. Additionally, based on operating experience, the industry began to apply an expanded understanding of integrated risk, including the consideration and interactions between operational, project and enterprise risk. These actions have increased industry self-awareness, as well as the capacity for continuous improvement and organizational learning.

America’s nuclear energy industry has applied the attention and required resources to deeply learn from the accident at Fukushima. Concurrently, industry leaders increased their attention to the operation of the nuclear stations with a resultant steady improvement in plant safety and reliability.

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