• English
  • العربية
  • 中文
  • Français
  • Русский
  • Español

You are here

IAEA Meeting Discusses Optimizing Operation and Maintenance of Nuclear Power Plants


Member State representatives discussed optimizing operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants at an IAEA Technical Meeting, 9–11 July 2019, Vienna, Austria. (Photo: E.Dyck/IAEA)

Currently, there are 449 nuclear power reactors worldwide supplying dependable and low-carbon electricity. Sustaining their safe, reliable and high performing operation requires rigorous maintenance of the plant’s structures, systems and components (SSC), which is typically performed during planned outages. Operation and maintenance of an NPP also has associated costs which affect the economic sustainability of its electricity generation globally, particularly under today’s electricity market conditions.

Therefore, it is essential for NPPs to optimize operation and maintenance activities for assured safety with appropriate human and financial resources, participants in a recent IAEA meeting heard. Representing ten countries with operating nuclear power plants, they were nuclear industry professionals, outage managers, operators, designers, vendors and regulators, attending the Technical Meeting on the Optimization of Operation and Maintenance Focusing on Cost Reduction from 9 to 11 July 2019 in Vienna.

The goal of maintenance at a nuclear power plant (NPP) is to ensure that nuclear operators have all systems available that are necessary for safe and reliable power production, and that these systems are functioning reliably and efficiently. All these elements are part of a plant operation and outage strategy. How the strategy is implemented can determine the success of optimizing operation and maintenance, and therefore reduce costs without compromising safety.

“Outages and maintenance strategies for nuclear power plants can be economically and technically more effective through good work management, for instance, reducing the maintenance work during planned outages by performing some maintenance while the plant is operating,” explained Harri Varjonen, a nuclear engineer in the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy and Scientific Secretary of the meeting. “However, this requires continuously improving work management processes to ensure safety and functional reliability of the NPP while meeting all safety and regulatory requirements.”

During the technical meeting, the participants, coming from Armenia, China, Finland, Japan, Pakistan, Romania, the Russian Federation, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates, a soon-to-be-operating country, shared their national experiences and lessons learned on challenges and successes in implementing maintenance and outage optimization strategies and improving work management processes.

When considering cost reductions, maintenance should be optimized as far as reasonably possible, and within the set regulations to ensure continuous safe operation, participants agreed. Maintenance optimization should not be strictly limited to the maintenance process itself. It is also important to consider the relationship with other important processes at the NPP, such as security, radiation protection, and handling radioactive waste, to ensure better maintainability.

The experts identified the work management process as one of the most important factors for optimizing maintenance. In terms of outages of the NPP, participants agreed that the challenge is to keep the outage short to avoid financial losses, while at the same time perform high quality maintenance work that ensures safe continuous operation until next outage. Effective and detailed planning is thus essential, as well as a skilled, competent and dedicated workforce, and a stock of spare parts. Maintenance data must be recorded in a systematic, traceable manner for evaluation and analysis.

In presentations and roundtable discussions during breakout sessions, the experts explored methods, tools and opportunities to take successful and timely preventive and corrective maintenance actions that consist of overhaul, repair and replacement. Preventive and corrective maintenance is also enhanced by testing, calibration, in-service inspections and monitoring to ensure that all SSCs operate when needed and perform their required and expected functions.

The experts highlighted that optimization strategies require an extensive dialogue between the NPP organizations and national regulatory bodies, to assure that implementing these strategies does not compromise safety.

“We have collected valuable input from Member States in terms of good practices and case studies, and on how to make the work management process more effective,” said Mr Varjonen. The results of this meeting will feed into two new IAEA publications to disseminate the information collected for use by all Member States.


Outages and maintenance strategies for nuclear power plants can be economically and technically more effective through good work management, for instance, reducing the maintenance work during planned outages by performing some maintenance while the plant is operating.
H. Varjonen, IAEA Nuclear Power Engineering Section

Stay in touch