Nuclear Safety Culture

Diff­er­ences between indus­tries can be identified in all daily work details. From communication and collaboration to competition and leadership styles in the office. The definitive lesson I learnt in the Nuclear industry, was that ‘Safety’ is the over­rid­ing pri­or­ity above any other con­sid­er­a­tion. Comming myself from the automotive and construction industries I had to shift the mode of my “project management” mind.

Later on I have understood how this approach has shaped the orga­ni­za­tional cul­ture industry that per­me­ates all com­pa­nies and orga­ni­za­tions inside. This cul­ture is called Nuclear Safety Cul­ture: “Safety cul­ture is an organization’s val­ues and behaviors — modeled by its lead­ers and inter­nal­ized by its members — that serve to make nuclear safety the over­rid­ing priority.”

This safety approach has cre­ated a strong sense of com­mit­ment within the indus­try work­force, now I am able to understand how everyone is proud and commited in its job.

Cur­rently, I am work­ing in the NUSHARE project, which aims to develop and imple­ment Edu­ca­tion, Train­ing and Infor­ma­tion pro­grammes to strengthen the com­pe­tences required for achiev­ing excel­lence in Nuclear Safety Cul­ture in Europe. Our team is col­lect­ing all the related exist­ing courses in Europe, for a later imple­mentation action in a sec­ond phase.

This FP7 project was launched after an “Euro­pean Edu­ca­tion, Train­ing and Infor­ma­tion ini­tia­tive” pro­posed by the Com­mis­sioner for Research and Inno­va­tion and the Com­mis­sioner for Energy after the sadly famous Great East Japan Earth­quake and Tsunami on 11 March 2011 (Fukushima). I find inspir­ing how peo­ple in our indus­try work with the objec­tive of achiev­ing the high­est lev­els of Nuclear Safety to protect and ben­e­fit our society.

The Insti­tute of Nuclear Power Oper­a­tions (INPO) defines the Prin­ci­ples for a Strong Nuclear Safety Cul­ture as follows:

1. Every­one is per­son­ally respon­si­ble for nuclear safety. 2. Lead­ers demon­strate com­mit­ment to safety. 3. Trust per­me­ates the orga­ni­za­tion. 4. Decision-making reflects safety first. 5. Nuclear tech­nol­ogy is rec­og­nized as spe­cial and unique. 6. A ques­tion­ing atti­tude is cul­ti­vated. 7. Orga­ni­za­tional learn­ing is embraced. 8. Nuclear safety under­goes con­stant examination.

Since the begin­ning of my pro­fes­sional career, I have enjoyed dif­fer­ent tech­ni­cal and cul­tural envi­ron­ments from auto­mo­tive to renew­able energy, besides being in coun­tries like UK, Swe­den and China. The pro­fes­sion­al­ism, integrity and com­mit­ment found in the nuclear indus­try is above all pre­vi­ous experiences.

I recall how my “nucleariza­tion” took place dur­ing the first 1.5 years of train­ing received in 2009. There I fol­lowed a com­pre­hen­sive and demand­ing train­ing on nuclear tech­nol­ogy and PWR reac­tors; from basic nuclear physics to plant oper­a­tion in a full scope sim­u­la­tor. I remem­ber how our instruc­tors made us per­son­ally accountable for all the nuclear safety aspects related to our training and our future behaviour when performing our respon­si­bil­i­ties. Some of us, as future instruc­tors in PWR plants we had to be as rig­or­ous as trained. We learned the impor­tance of “adher­ence to pro­ce­dures” and the need of writ­ten evi­dences on all steps taken. The use of the 3-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion were shocking at the beggining, and we found how peer-checks are use­ful in engineering design. Tools of human error pre­ven­tion are always necessary to stay on the safe side dur­ing the deci­sion tak­ing in crit­i­cal engi­neer­ing processes.

The efforts in our com­pany to main­tain and increase the highest levels of Nuclear Safety Cul­ture were in-house designed and implemented by a group of engineering and psichologists. Orga­ni­za­tional cul­ture is defined as “the shared basic assump­tions devel­oped in an orga­ni­za­tion as it learns and copes with prob­lems”. The Nuclear indus­try found, along its accu­mu­lated oper­a­tional expe­ri­ence of three thou­sand years, how Safety Cul­ture is a key factor in the over­all suc­cess to deliver clean and stable Nuclear energy in any given country.

Originally published at on February 11, 2015.

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