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New IAEA Publication Highlights the Role of Management in Nuclear Power Plant Projects

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Developing and constructing a nuclear power plant involves government bodies, multiple expert and construction teams, a large set of materials and the coordinated work of thousands of people as well as input from a myriad of interdisciplinary groups at all levels. To ensure the successful development and construction of a nuclear project, a strong project management plan must be implemented to verify that the project meets regulations and safety standards and is delivered with high quality, on time and on budget.

Management of Nuclear Power Plant Projects, the latest publication in the IAEA Nuclear Energy Series, provides best practices in this area. The publication, funded through the IAEA Peaceful Uses Initiative, describes how to implement a management framework within a nuclear power plant project, ensuring that required systems are in place to manage project areas and are updated proactively as the project progresses.

“Several IAEA Member States have, and continue to run repeated successful nuclear power projects,” said Pekka Pyy, Senior Expert in Organization and Management Systems at the IAEA. “The management of nuclear projects, especially new builds, is challenging, therefore timely project development is needed to prevent delays and budget overruns. Very often, problems reported during the construction phase have actually originated earlier but only become visible later. It is in all cases possible to run successful nuclear newbuild projects by careful planning, agreed processes and clear roles and interfaces.”

Factors influencing nuclear power projects

The publication highlights numerous external and internal factors which can affect successful project implementation and reception. These include organizational culture and leadership style, the regulatory environment and access to qualified personnel, among others.

“Even if a plant is using a design which has been implemented in the past somewhere else, elements like the local legislation that must be followed, site environment and the materials available in that location may affect how a project progresses,” said Pyy, adding that successful projects require a strong and long-term national commitment to nuclear power.

Enterprise and external environment factors that influcence nuclear projects.

Managing nuclear power projects

While many of the success factors for nuclear power projects are the same as for any megaprojects – such as time, cost, health and safety and environmental protection – in the case of nuclear power, there are also nuclear-specific considerations. These include radiation protection and radioactive waste management, licensing, emergency planning and response, security and safeguards of nuclear material.

Another increasingly important factor in the success of nuclear projects both nationally and globally is communications management – keeping those involved with the project informed of project status and progress and informing governments, the surrounding communities and other stakeholders about the project and its potential impact. The publication highlights forms of public communication such as press releases or newsletters, social media and tours for the public as contributing to a greater understanding of the project and therefore possibly greater acceptance.

The publication also introduces and explains the management activities in five different project phases, all of which must be put into place from the beginning of the project and be integrated throughout its life cycle: identification, initiation, development and definition, execution and closeout as well as lessons learned.

Knowledge sharing

The publication includes best practices from established nuclear power countries and their projects for those countries embarking on their first nuclear power project. These can then be used and adapted to national regulations, standards and values.

“When building a nuclear power plant for the first time, national expertise may not be there, and delays may occur simply due to the inexperience of all involved organizations. In sharing the expertise from established nuclear power countries, others can maximize the chances of success,” said Rod Speedy, Chief Advisor for Project Development at Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned electricity utility. “Nuclear power plant constructions are massive undertakings and the consequences of project failure are great. The new publication aims to address this through comprehensive management guidance for success throughout the lifecycle of a nuclear project.”

Further project management guidance and good practices on managing a nuclear power plant project are available in a variety of sources such as IAEA Safety Standards and the IAEA Nuclear Energy Series.

A nuclear power plant must be managed in a safe and efficient manner throughout its entire life cycle, from design through decommissioning, with the overall goal of providing reliable and affordable electricity. Read more how the IAEA is helping here.

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