After forty-plus years in the US Nuclear industry, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been lucky to work in an industry that has been shaped by a culture of knowledge sharing. Unlike many other industries that are protective of their business processes and information in order to be competitive in the markets they operate in, the nuclear industry openly shares program processes and good practices.
Learning From the Past
After the Three Mile Island (TMI) accident occurred in 1979, the nuclear industry concluded that a serious problem at one station could immediately impact every other unit in operation. In fact, some of the key lessons learned from the TMI event exposed a gap resulting from the different utilities not sharing operating experience within the fleet of US nuclear stations. This issue was addressed with the establishment of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), which was founded on a key principle of the importance of sharing operating experience across the different nuclear units in service. During INPO plant evaluations, industry peers support the assessment of the performance of other stations to influence the current standards and practices in place. This sharing of expertise and experience is designed to improve overall station and fleet performance and is unique to our industry.
During my career, I was fortunate to participate in INPO plant and corporate evaluations, where I was able to glean critical insights to help shape my own actions and activities to support safe, reliable operations within the stations I was responsible for. The culture of using experienced nuclear professionals in the practices established by the industry through INPO has had a major effect over time, which contributes to the overall strong performance of the US nuclear fleet today.
INPO also had a foundational principle to oversee the US nuclear training programs and establish the process of accreditation for all the key station training programs, which provides the opportunity to share best practices within the training professional community. Having spent most of my career in various training positions, from entry-level instructor to corporate training director, I greatly appreciated how industry training groups bonded and shared as a community of practice. Every position I held in training provided me with opportunities to gain from my peers and share things I had learned in return.
Over many decades the Training community has proven to be very successful at sharing experiences and information across various sites and utilities. Arguably the accreditation process itself contributed to supporting extra involvement in utility interactions in preparing for and earning accreditation results that were beyond the standard plant and corporate evaluations interactions. Station executives had to rely on the Training community and sharing from strong training programs to achieve accreditation renewal. I’m proud to have been able to support those requests for training program help and provide peer support to improve other’s programs.
Another tradition in our industry that has facilitated our sharing of ideas and improved our training programs and station performance is CONTE, The Conference on Nuclear Training and Education, a sponsored conference held by the American Nuclear Society (ANS), held every two years. This conference unites training professionals from all over the world who gather to share information in supporting nuclear power as a safe, clean, reliable source of energy. I have participated in numerous CONTE sessions, in various Training roles, and always came away with some new information or knowledge of processes that could help me shape the programs I was conducting. Participating in CONTE provides the opportunity to interact with many industry professionals, all focused on supporting the great industry we are part of, and all wanting to benefit from sharing knowledge and experiences.
Like any good conference, CONTE’s success depends on industry support. This means that the conference planning committee must work diligently between conferences to structure future plans of execution. These monumental tasks rely upon nuclear professionals volunteering their time to plan and coordinate all conference logistics. Financial sponsors, people willing to write technical papers, and presenters must also be recruited. Most importantly, participants must take time to register and attend the conference.
Having had to determine what benefits attending CONTE would provide to my station training programs and staff, I always made sure I had a conference strategy. My staff and I were always on the lookout for key takeaways, and lessons learned that could improve our programs. I always found that the couple of days I spent gathering industry updates from participating utilities, vendors, and universities was a positive experience that I was pleased we had participated in.
The last in-person CONTE was held in 2019 when I was still working for a large nuclear fleet. We made some key changes as a fleet because of the knowledge gleamed at that conference. In 2021, the conference was held virtually because of the COVID pandemic. While still beneficial, it was not as enjoyable as previous conferences where we could interact in person.
I am excited that CONTE 2023 will be an in-person event. I am looking forward to seeing old colleagues and getting to meet new nuclear professionals. CONTE 2023: “Maintaining Excellence Today – Building the Nuclear Workforce for Tomorrow!” will take place in February in beautiful Amelia Island, Florida.
I will be attending CONTE as a representative of Accelerant Solutions. Along with my coworkers, I will be sharing key products and services that will help improve current training programs. I look forward to gaining an updated perspective on the industry as participants share with one another their current challenges and potential solutions.
If you have never attended CONTE and are interested in checking out a high-quality training conference, go to the ANS website and register. If you do attend, please make sure you stop by the Accelerant Solutions booth to say hello. I am looking forward to interacting with the many dedicated nuclear training professionals who will be there in February.
If you would like to hear more about our training services, please contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to our website at www.discoveraccelerant.com.