Industry leaders call for national support on Knowledge Management

National and international bodies should work with nuclear companies to centralize information networks and help overcome the significant Knowledge Management challenges faced by the decommissioning sector, leading industry experts said.

Knowledge Management and sharing between nuclear operators, suppliers and regulators is key to ensuring safe and cost-effective execution of decommissioning projects given the long timelines between plant shutdown and waste disposal.

Nuclear firms are confronting the challenges of implementing Knowledge Management systems inside and between large companies, but state-funded organisations can do more to help retain knowledge along the lifecycle of decommissioning, leading industry experts said at Nuclear Energy Insider's Nuclear Decommissioning Conference Europe on June 1.

"There's a place for national bodies in some of this inter-organisational sharing," Bob Radford, Head of Information Governance at Magnox, a U.K. Site Licence Company, said.

Organisations such as the U.K.'s NDA or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could provide frameworks and forums for knowledge sharing, Radford noted.

"A life-cycle approach is required," John Day, Head of Knowledge Management and Intellectual Property at Sellafield, the U.K. nuclear decommissioning site, said.

The types of operations change significantly in the different phases between nuclear plant design and fuel waste disposal and this presents many opportunities for knowledge to be lost, Day said.

"The accountability for this in our fragmented industry [in the UK]... Is not always clear and it really does require a national enterprise to resolve this potential for lost knowledge throughout the life-cycle of the whole industry's operations," he said.

The long timelines between plant dismantling and waste disposal raises the importance of generation-to-generation knowledge sharing, Franz Borrmann, Managing Director at German nuclear consultancy IUS, said.

"We should probably think of having some kind of orchestration of this knowledge over the life-cycle...state organisations will play a role because the state is the organisation that we usually accept as being there for a long period of time," he said.

Power utilities have been traditionally considered stable over the long term, but Germany's shift away from nuclear and towards renewable energy has put many nuclear utilities in some difficulty, Borrmann noted.

New approaches

According to Radford, companies must tackle concerns over security and intellectual property to open up effective knowledge sharing channels.

"I am increasingly told by the regulators not to share is often perceived as an overriding factor by some of the regulators," he said.

From a commercial standpoint, intellectual property rights are seen as another obstacle to effective knowledge sharing, Radford noted.

"Breaking down some of these barriers can be difficult, but is usually worthwhile," he said.

The industry experts also called for faster integration of disruptive technologies in the nuclear sector, which has lagged behind many other industries in embracing new advancements.

Decommissioning projects do not have the strict I.T. security requirements that are attached to operational plants and new technologies such as social media and visualisation applications like 3-D modelling can improve knowledge sharing procedures, the experts said.

"The technology is available... we don't have to reinvent the wheel," Borrmann said.

Radford noted however that new disruptive technologies must be accompanied by a more dynamic approach towards Knowledge Management as skills requirements change between the operations, defueling and decommissioning phases.

"You need a disruptive management as much as a disruptive technology," he said.

Nuclear Energy Insider

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