Training day WANO’s professional and technical development programme

9 December 2013

Since the 2011 Fukushima disaster, provision of training and development has soared up the World Association of Nuclear Operators’ (WANO) agenda. Elly Earls meets Wade Green, the newly appointed director of WANO’s Professional and Technical Development programme, to find out how priorities have changed in the wake of the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster on 11 March 2011, the largest since the catastrophic Chernobyl accident in 1986 and only the second incident (along with Chernobyl) to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) has been on a new mission: to ensure everything possible is done to avoid anything similar ever happening again.

Not only has WANO added emergency preparedness and severe-accident management guidelines to the scope of its activities, it has also implemented significant staffing increases and is getting more stringent with its members. For example, mandatory station peer reviews have increased from once every six years to once every four, with a follow-up visit at the halfway point, and, starting in January 2014, the peer review judging criteria will be updated to include post-Fukushima issues.

But that's not all. Training and professional development, which historically has taken something of a backseat in comparison with WANO's other programmes, will also play a much more central role in the association's activities from here on in. This is evidenced by the appointment of Wade Green as the new full-time programme director for the association's Professional and Technical Development (P&TD) programme, along with the huge increase in the number of seminars and workshops that will be put on each year for WANO members, and the expected establishment of a closer working relationship with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Elly Earls caught up with Green to find out more.

Elly Earls: One means of preventing accidents is to help staff increase their skills and knowledge so that they can deal with potential safety issues before they become problems, and this is what you do through your P&TD programme. Can you tell me a bit about the history of the programme?

Wade Green: The P&TD programme began at the inaugural meeting in Moscow in 1989, where CEOs from 144 operating companies signed the WANO Charter.charter listed several activities to implement, including providing professional and technical development by organising workshops, seminars, leadership courses and expert meetings. It also discussed the support needed for this activity and stated that each member should provide participants and experts for seminars, workshops, leadership courses and expert meetings to support improvements in operational safety and reliability.

The P&TD programme began slowly at first compared with the other schemes, primarily for two reasons: P&TD activities are viewed as being more effective on a long-term rather than a short-term basis and, at the time WANO was formed, there were a number of activities that required more urgent attention to get started properly.

How have the priorities of the programme changed since the Fukushima incident?

Since Fukushima, WANO has taken an in-depth look at the performance and effectiveness of all its programmes. As part of that, it was decided that the P&TD programme needed more oversight and direction; that is why three new positions (including a full-time programme director) have recently been created in the London office - to help coordinate and better focus these activities.

In the last two years, since Fukushima, the number of seminars and workshops has roughly doubled from about 25 a year to about 50 a year. Many of these activities are particularly focused on the lessons learned from that event.

WANO is growing and will soon have around 400 staff members. Why are you expanding so quickly, and how much of this increase is focused on the P&TD programme?

After Fukushima, WANO established a Post-Fukushima Commission, which was charged with determining what changes WANO should implement - based on the lessons learned from the event - to help prevent or mitigate a similar occurrence in the future and to close the gaps in the organisation's performance. The commission's recommendations identified a number of areas for new activities as well as some areas where performance gaps needed to be closed. In London, this meant increasing staffing across the board, but in particular it meant moving from one person working part-time on P&TD activities to three people working full-time.

The P&TD staff in the regional centres may also have to be adjusted as we provide a central focus from the London office and the support necessary to make the programme effective. However, we need to develop our strategy first and then address the resources needed to support that strategy.

Activities of the programme include workshops, conferences, seminars and training courses. Could you give one or two recent examples of any of these that were particularly successful?

I am new to this position so I can only provide my impressions from talking to others. One of the activities I was particularly interested in was the Nuclear Construction Experience (CE) Workshop held in China to share information and lessons learned between organisations that are building new plants.

Another is a series of small-group CEO meetings that provides CEOs a forum to have frank discussions about the topics they are most concerned by.

How important is the P&TD programme as a forum for different members to collaborate and share ideas?

The majority of P&TD activities fit that definition. Learning from one another is a cornerstone of WANO's existence. We don't necessarily always have the top technical people on any given subject but we can help the stations to help each other, whether through technical support missions, peer reviews, seminars or workshops.

The specific topic of each WANO activity is chosen on the basis of the members' requests or needs identified by WANO. Can you give some examples that have been addressed in your activities?

This is probably an area that will change over the next year. We have focused to a large degree on what the stations have requested of WANO for seminars, workshops and training. In the near future, I expect that we will increase our emphasis on what the stations need to help improve performance; this will be based largely on the results of peer reviews.

For P&TD, this will be done on a broad industry, regional or subgroup basis - other programmes will be looking after the stations on an individual basis.

WANO is now working very closely with the IAEA. How has it contributed to the P&TD Programme?

While WANO has a good working relationship with the IAEA, we have not worked as closely in this area as we would like. In the past, this was partially due to the nature of our organisations but primarily due to the lack of a WANO-wide focus for the P&TD Programme - we expect that to change as we staff the London office.

Wade Green joined WANO London in September 2013 as director of the Professional and Technical Development programme.

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