Safety is embedded into the EDF ethos and is evident as soon as you pass the security gates of Sizewell B where, etched into a giant rock, are the words: ‘Nuclear safety is our overriding priority’.
When a group of WANO London Office staff visited the plant in November 2014, this was, for most, their very first experience inside a nuclear power plant. Although the WANO London Office is predominantly staffed by nuclear experts, the Communications programme and Business, Administration and Information Systems teams consist of highly trained staff who are mostly from non-nuclear backgrounds.
Chris Dawes, Peer Review Team Leader, arranged the visit. Seconded to WANO London from EDF Energy where he was the Fleet Manager for Maintenance, Chris has over 30 years' experience in the nuclear industry.
The team’s first impression was how strict security was, from the formal documentation required ahead of the visit to the loud alarm that detected a mobile phone in someone’s pocket. No electronic devices were permitted beyond the gates apart from one camera which needed formal sign-off and a set of rules on its use.
After an initial briefing, the team donned their plant attire of overcoats, hardhats, gloves, earplugs, protective goggles and boots. “Hold onto the handrail” was the catchphrase of the day as, although one of the more basic rules, it is critical to remember when navigating stairs. Plant staff are trained to not only hold themselves highly accountable for their own actions while onsite, but also those of their colleagues, and it is general practice to correct the behaviours of others if an error is observed.
The scale of the plant and its turbines surprised the team, as did the reaction to PA announcements: “It was interesting to see all personnel stop what they were doing or saying to listen carefully to the message”, commented Anne Mannion, Communications Specialist.
The team also visited the control room training simulator. Kim Nobay, Information Systems Manager, said; “It was a genuine eye-opener to see what would happen in an emergency. So calm, methodical and well-structured, it made me feel very safe”.
It was impossible not to be struck by the enthusiasm and passion that all staff shared over their work; it resonated throughout the plant. Visiting Sizewell B and having the opportunity to talk with the staff was hugely beneficial to the WANO team who described it as “insightful and enlightening” and, as a result, further visits have been organised.
Thank you Sizewell B for being gracious hosts.