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Future Challenges and Opportunities in Maintenance Training for Nuclear Facilities Highlighted at IAEA Meeting


A virtual reality tool used in training at Fortum Oy, Finland, was demonstrated during the IAEA Technical Meeting on Maintenance Training: Future Challenges and Opportunities, held in Obninsk, Russian Federation, 12 April 2018. (Photo: Rosatom)

Training and developing the workforce responsible for surveillance, repair and service activities in nuclear power plants is crucial for a plant’s safe, reliable and efficient operation. To ensure that the workforce responsible for maintenance work is highly qualified, operating facilities in Member States are running a variety of maintenance training programmes. These programmes, and how innovative technologies offer new opportunities in training maintenance staff, were discussed at an IAEA technical meeting last week.

Some 50 representatives from 16 operating and embarking countries attended the Technical Meeting on Maintenance Training: Future Challenges and Opportunities, hosted by the Rosatom Technical Academy, in Obninsk, the Russian Federation, on 10–13 April 2018.

They were managers, training experts and human resource development specialists, who addressed topics such as measurement and evaluation of effective maintenance training, how to ensure the competence of maintenance personnel and contractors at nuclear power plants, and the impact of digital technologies on maintenance training. They also shared experiences on establishing and running maintenance training centres. The discussions and presentations emphasized that maintenance training in all Member States focuses on a safety culture using different human performance tools, for example pre- and post-job briefings.

“Training programmes for maintenance personnel need to ensure that all activities are performed safely and in accordance with the operating facility’s procedures and policies,” said Pal Vincze, Head of the IAEA Nuclear Power Engineering Section.

Digital technologies

Digital technologies, such as virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR), 360-degree videos, 3D models, process simulators, holograms and e-learning offer new opportunities in maintenance training, participants heard.

“Digital technologies can help create a new realistic experience,” explained Lotta Halt, IAEA Scientific Secretary of the meeting. “They can be used, for example, in pre-job briefings, to better plan, understand and optimize maintenance work or in testing equipment in advance.”

Some participants demonstrated how digital technologies can be adapted to support maintenance, outages and operator training. For example, Fortum Oy, the operator of the Loviisa nuclear power plant in Finland, combines a VR control room, field operation simulators and 360-degree videos with traditional training for different categories of maintenance personnel at the nuclear power plant.

“I have learned that at the Loviisa nuclear power plant, they have a digitalization coordinator, which is a good example for how a company can succeed with digitalization,” said Erika Löfqvist from the Oskarshamn nuclear power plant in Sweden.

Jana Beerova, from the Dukovany nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic, added: “We see our future progress in digital technology, especially 3D cameras, to be used in contractor training.”

However, participants also recognized that the cost for most digital technologies is high. Another challenge is that in some cases, maintenance staff is not yet accepting these technologies as a real, practical training. IT and commercial security issues may also pose challenges.

Maintenance training centres

Many Member States have maintenance training centres to develop the necessary competences of the workforce with mock-up equipment, such as valves, pumps, lifting and rigging. For example, KSU, the Swedish nuclear training and safety centre, uses the shutdown Barsebäck nuclear power plant as a full scope training centre, offering a real environment. The Novovorenezh nuclear power plant in the Russian Federation has a modern technology based maintenance training centre including both practical and digital training tools, such as VR simulator equipment and control systems as well as different training simulators.

The meeting also addressed how the experienced and young generations can support each other through mentoring, coaching, on-the-job training and other methods to assure knowledge transfer.

Systematic Approach to Training (SAT)

Several nuclear facilities run maintenance training programmes based on SAT, which covers all phases of the nuclear power plant life cycle: commissioning, operation, plant life extension and decommissioning. SAT includes 5 steps: analysing the training needs, designing the training programme, developing appropriate training materials, implementing the training and evaluating the outcome.

“Many Member States find the evaluation part of SAT a challenge,” added Lotta Halt. “Clear performance indicators are needed to evaluate the training outcome. Then the expected return on investment can be assessed in terms of improved safety and plant performance, as well as justify financial investment in training.”

For nuclear newcomer countries it is important to understand that maintenance training already starts with the construction of a nuclear power plant. Belarus, which is building its first nuclear power plant at the Ostrovets site, is in the phase of recruiting its future workforce. “We are now purchasing simulators and mock-up equipment that will support our maintenance training efforts,” said Maksim Aksianovic from the Republican Unitary Enterprise ‘Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant’.

We see our future progress in digital technology, especially 3D cameras, to be used in contractor training.
Jana Beerova, Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, Czech Republic

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