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IAEA Hosts Meeting on the Human Performance Requirements of a Nuclear Workforce

Human Resource Development. Mochovce NPP

Employees at the Mochovce Nuclear Power Plant in Slovakia. (Photo: A. Evrensel/IAEA)

The extent to which nuclear energy can achieve its potential of contributing to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world ultimately depends on the availability of competent, qualified and capable human resources. The nuclear industry places very rigorous demands on such resources because of the complexity of the technology and the need for highly educated and trained staff who must meet high standards of performance and conduct. The workforce involved across this spectrum of activities must be able to carry out, from a position for which they have demonstrated their mental fitness for duty, both routine functions and emergency response actions.

On 22–25 August 2017, the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy held a Technical Meeting on “Human Performance Reliability and Resilience in Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) Operations” at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the United States. Attracting a lot of interest from Member States, this was the first time the IAEA has held a meeting focusing on the psychological wellbeing and behaviour of the NPP workforce.

The meeting was attended by 52 experts from 18 countries ranging from nuclear newcomers to those with operating NPPs. It included a series of workshops and breakout sessions to exchange experiences and best practices in behavioural assessments and evaluations across national nuclear workforces.

The takeaway is the same for all Member States: safe, secure and effective human performance at nuclear facilities around the world.
Inna Pletukhina, US Department of State

What is Human Reliability and Human Performance?

Human performance and human reliability are key components of safe, secure and effective operations across the nuclear sector. It is vital that the unique psychological demands of the roles and responsibilities of personnel employed across the sector are fully understood and managed to enable safe and reliable operation. The IAEA’s Safety Guide, Recruitment, Qualification and Training of Personnel for Nuclear Power Plants (IAEA Safety Standards Series No. NS-G-2.8), recommends that for key and critical positions psychological fitness for duty requirements should be taken into account.

What has been the IAEA’s Role in this?

The IAEA supports Member States in establishing, maintaining and sustaining an effective nuclear safety and security infrastructure.

“The meeting has enabled us to review and benchmark our plans as the output here will help Nigeria to produce a regulatory framework for its Human Reliability Programme,” said Adamu Abdul, from the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

Dr. Pani Schutte, Principle Phycologist at the Koeberg NPP in South Africa, added that the meeting “was crucial to establish a much needed and long overdue standardised approach to best practices with regards to human performance reliability”.

Capturing experiences from operators and regulators has allowed participants to compile international best practices. The output from this very first TM will lead to an IAEA publication on methodology and practices associated with the behavioral requirements for safe, secure and effective performance throughout employee’s lifecycles.

Inna Pletukhina, from the US Department of State noted that despite the diverse cultural norms and organisational perspectives present at the event, “the takeaway is the same for all Member States: safe, secure and effective human performance at nuclear facilities around the world.”

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