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The importance of excellent leadership to nuclear plant performance

During the last six years I have spent visiting plants and utilities around the globe, and analysing the performance of WANO Regional Centres, one thing is clear to me. The result of 29 years of collaboration inside WANO and benchmarking throughout the industry is that plant design, resources and processes used around the world today are quite comparable.

What makes a difference to performance, more than ever, is implementation, standards and culture.  And leadership is the key variable differentiating marginal and exceptional performance. After all, it is only logical that a better led and managed organisation will perform at a higher level, both in terms of safety and financial stability. Fewer trips, less repeat problems, better managed outages.
To me, it is clear - leadership is the difference.

There is evidence that declining plant performance is often preceded by changes in leadership, either at the head office or on site. An increasing trend of significant events and AFIs will have leadership effectiveness as an underlying contributor. There are a large number of new entrants into the industry, and developing leadership capability is going to be a key issue. Indeed, Leadership Effectiveness is mentioned in peer review executive summaries nearly twice as often as any other functional area.

Furthermore, as many senior managers and executives retire over the coming years, we must continue to develop the leadership capability of the younger generations of nuclear professionals. We are committed to supporting the next generation and will be launching new initiatives in this area in the coming months. 

WANO is actively addressing this through our Compass strategic initiative on leadership. We have developed a detailed 10 point action plan and some of the key tasks we have been undertaking this year are:

• The development of a set of behavioural traits, where we define what good nuclear leadership looks like (a group of senior nuclear executives will undertake this task). This is in recognition of the need for a specific nuclear focus to serve the particular circumstances of our unique industry.

• The launch of a shift managers’ leadership programme that augments our mid managers programme - the Nuclear Leadership Programme. (We will also work with members to implement these programmes into their own utilities).

• Improve our peer reviewers’ capability to identify underlying leadership issues contributing to performance issues, and to write more focussed AFIs.
We are currently facing many challenges and opportunities in our industry. I would greatly encourage you, our members, to look into your own organisations to ensure you are sufficiently equipping your managers with the leadership skills to drive safe and reliable plant performance into the future.

Jacques Régaldo  
WANO Chairman