As conditions change in the nuclear industry, so must processes
Until relatively recently nuclear operators were used to a world in which they were expected to supply a constant baseload to the grid. This now changes, due in large part to the growing importance of renewables. By its nature, renewable output is variable, and this means that the grid must be balanced to take into account rapid changes in the demand for nuclear power.
In practical terms, this means that where once, nuclear power stations could take around two days to execute a more leisurely change in output, they now need to manage this in just a few hours.
In discussions with our clients in the nuclear industry, it becomes clear that in this new landscape, the radical change in operational agility can only be achieved if operators know the exact status of plant assets and can use this near-realtime view to safely and efficiently modify output.
Three focuses for change
This change is perfectly achievable, but depends on shifts in process, technology and culture.
Firstly, the nuclear operator needs to move from established book-schedules to processes built around condition-based monitoring. Actions are driven by the actual status of the plant, rather than by rigidly documented schedules.
Secondly, this demands changes in the management technology. While nuclear operators have always excelled in the use of critical monitoring technologies, such as those used for radioprotection, the constant output of status data needs to be managed across the plant to gain a far more granular degree of control.
And thirdly, this change can only happen if nuclear operators are open to cultural change. Safety, of course, will always remain the number one priority, but now the possibility of working in a data-driven enterprise requires a willingness to accept working practices determined by actual conditions rather than strict book-schedules.
Cost savings and working practices
This shift is not just about a change in process, however. It also responds to other key concerns in the nuclear industry. In recent discussions with our nuclear clients, for example, industry executives tell me they are seeking to reduce maintenance costs by 30% and more – always without in any way compromising safety.
By adopting the condition-based processes needed to achieve variable output, the nuclear operators also establish the framework needed to initiate more effective maintenance operations: our clients will initiate interventions not simply according to the date or the run-hours but according to actual status. I believe this approach will have a major impact both on protecting the value of the asset, and on the cost-efficiency of managing maintenance resources.
And finally, it’s worth thinking about how these changes affect the professionals working within the nuclear power industry. As a new generation of nuclear engineers comes on board, the industry welcomes people who have grown up with digital technology – people who are used to mobility and constant access to data and services. In adopting these new condition-based approaches, the nuclear industry is also preparing the ground for its next generation of engineers.
Atos will demonstrate its digital value proposition for nuclear at the World Nuclear Exhibition (WNE 2018), the biannual leading event for the global civil nuclear energy community, from 26-28 June 2018 at Paris Villepinte.
Our experts will be pleased to welcome you Hall 7 Stand F89.
For more information click here.