The Case for Continuous Compliance in the Nuclear Industry
Nuclear power represents perhaps the highest potential for clean energy to power our future energy needs. Additionally, the industry has a near peerless record in reducing CO2 emissions, minimizing workplace injuries, and avoiding on-site fatalities. Despite this record, the major nuclear accidents that have occurred over the decades remain vivid in people’s minds and the costs of compliance resulting from increased regulations has continued to grow. These regulations make nuclear energy less competitive due to cost constraints, the time to roll out new plants (permits and construction can take up to 20 years), and the risks around regulatory approvals for plant startup.
According to the American Action Forum (AAF), the total cost of regulatory liabilities was $15.7 billion or roughly $219 million dollars per plant. In addition, annual regulatory compliance costs range from $7.4 million to 15.5 million per plant just to shuffle the paperwork, with an average cost of $22 million in fees to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) (Source: American Action Forum).
Given the urgent challenges of climate change, one might hope for regulatory reform to make clean nuclear energy more cost competitive. However, history has shown that the fear of nuclear accidents has made regulatory reform an unachievable goal with advocates and critics both firmly locked into their positions. At the end of the day, the industry can’t rely on regulatory reform to make nuclear more cost-effective. As we used to say during my time at Bechtel, “Nobody is coming. It is up to us!”
Instead of complaining about the costs of regulations and compliance, we should take advantage of the immense opportunities created by the Age of Digital Transformation. The coming years will enable nearly every manual task performed by people to be automated to some degree. This trend offers enormous opportunities to reduce the manual labor costs associated with compliance, enabling nuclear energy to become more cost-competitive and to improve the bottom line for the industry.
So, what are these trends and how should plants think about adopting them? There are a number of important technologies that offer real and tangible cost savings for the industry:
- Internet of Things: Leveraging automated sensors to take readings, support predictive maintenance, automate material tracking/monitoring, and improve environmental compliance with low-cost wireless sensors
- Cloud Computing: Reducing capital expenditures and enabling capacity to scale up or down based on demand
- Drones: Automating security-related patrols, taking measurements, and leveraging machine vision
- Robotic Process Automation: Eliminating manual, paper-driven processes
- Continuous Compliance: Integrating sensor platforms to automate the updating of compliance documentation and reporting
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML): Learning and making autonomous decisions that reduce the need for manual labor
At Accelerant Solutions and C2 Labs, we believe the future of nuclear revolves around automated compliance. This belief has driven our significant investments in product development as we brought Atlasity to market to solve critical nuclear compliance needs in:
- Cyber Security
- Environmental Compliance
- Physical Security
- Nuclear Safety
- Quality Assurance
- Human Resources
For many years, the industry has been driven by continuous improvement and proven methodologies such as Lean and Six Sigma. We have taken these best practices and combined them with our DevOps automation experience to deliver the most advanced, continuous compliance automation platform in the industry. To learn more about how Atlasity and our compliance services can reduce the cost of compliance for your nuclear plant and unlock unprecedented savings, contact us today.