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A long term roadmap to safe and reliable operation

Tibor Balogh, Head of Operations Preparation Department, at Paks II. Ltd, explains how his organisation is using the Roadmap to Operational Readiness to help his organisation prepare for the safe operation of its new units.  

Tell us about your plans to build two new units? 
Two new VVER-1200 type nuclear power units will be constructed northwards from the presently operating units of Paks Nuclear Power Plant. The project company responsible for coordination submitted the implementation licence application to the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority in June 2020, and should receive a decision in autumn this year. 

There are around 2,500 people employed by MVM Paks Nuclear Power Plant Ltd. operating units 1-4 permanently. However during planned outages, at units 1-4 there are also contractors so in this period there is additional 800 – 1,000 staff. We are planning for a permanent staff of more than 1,000 for units 5 and 6. 

The most important aspect for us is ensuring the highest level of safety with the help of local and international experts. We aim to start the commercial operation in 2029 for Unit 5 and in 2030 for Unit 6.

How has the Roadmap to Operational Readiness (R2OR) helped Paks II with its new unit preparations? 
The R2OR has been extremely useful for us and we have used a lot of information in the preliminary safety reports. To start with, we conducted several brainstorming workshops and benchmarked our ideas against the Roadmap. 

Specific parts of the report have been very useful at this early pre-construction stage. In particular, we used it to develop our staffing plan and devised a roadmap to benchmark our plans. We used the recommended processes on the management systems outlined in the Roadmap. We are also using it for staffing, hiring, education and training plans. In the next few years, we will be hiring new graduates to work in the control room of Unit 5 and the Roadmap has helped us plan how many new graduates we need to recruit. 

We are starting to work with our HR teams internally and also externally with universities in Hungary to develop a supply of talented graduates that can join us once they qualify. Over the next year, we intend to hire several dozens of graduates in the first hiring session for a range of disciplines, including mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and nuclear physicists. 

We are looking for people that have technical understanding and an attitude to improve in that field. As part of training the new recruits, we established the Paks II Academy, a training for post-graduates to obtain a good understanding of what it is like to work in nuclear plants, covering major areas such as chemistry, reactor physics and engineering. 

How is WANO helping you with your new units?  
WANO conducted a new unit workshop with Paks II. I was involved in this and we learnt a lot from meeting global new unit experts. Thanks to WANO we established a relationship with Hinkley Point C (HPC) in 2019. As part of this, my colleagues visited the plant to familiarise ourselves with HPC’s operational readiness programme. We have also translated the Roadmap to Operational Readiness into Hungarian to better understand the document and enable it to be more widely used. 

I personally have built a good relationship with both Moscow Centre and Paris Centre. This has allowed me the opportunity to participate in several workshops and training, such as operational decision making and crew performance observations (CPOs). 

Do you plan to use WANO’s New Unit Assistance (NUA) modules? 
After our first workshop on planning for our new units, our management team set us the task to produce a specific roadmap to operational readiness for the new units at Paks II, which include incorporating operating experience and lessons learnt from around the world. We are planning to include WANO’s NUA modules in the planning schedule and will identify the key milestones in the journey from construction to commissioning when we can implement each module. 

How has your involvement in the New Unit Assistance Industry Working Group helped you? 
The IWG is an excellent forum for nuclear industry experts involved in new build projects at newcomer nations and nations with established nuclear power to learn from each other and WANO experts. The idea is that by getting involved you can learn from the best – and try to do it perfectly. Through the group, participants work together to focus on long term planning and requirements for operating new units – as most of the time we are focussed on the day to day work. It is great to work with and learn from experienced people from all around the world. We all have similar challenges when building and preparing new units for safe and reliable start up, and we all support each other in our work.