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Industry leaders at all levels benefit from completing a secondment at WANO

I’m the Director of Operations and Maintenance (Plant Manager) at Darlington Nuclear, a four-unit CANDU station east of Toronto, Canada. 

I was fortunate to participate in a WANO secondment to Atlanta Centre in August 2019 for one year. While in Atlanta, I worked as a Performance Monitoring Leader and I monitored four stations while in that role. Here are some of the activities that I performed while I was seconded to WANO Atlanta Centre/INPO.

First, I was able to obtain my full evaluator qualification, which was very enlightening as it helped with how to conduct observations. I also learned how to collect and analyse data to build a picture of performance; this very much helps in my day-to-day work.

While I was working on my evaluator training and full qualification as a performance monitoring leader, I was supported by a mentor and my direct supervisor on trips to make sure that I was building the proficiency to be a Performance Monitoring leader.

Something that is intangible in terms of learning was to be part of the INPO/WANO team and to see how experts at Atlanta Centre reacted to performance and events in the industry. You build an understanding of which events are significant and which metrics are important to assess performance.

My counterparts were the Senior Vice Presidents of the stations. Interacting with the highest level of station personnel was also extremely helpful for me, as I as able to see how these SVPs interacted with WANO.
Lastly, I helped the WANO team and my fleet by helping to explain CANDU technology and events that they may have been screening. 

What were the benefits to my utility and fleet of my secondment? When I returned to my plant, I was familiar with the performance monitoring process. I helped our oversight functions to see performance differently and to see their role in helping the sites improve performance.

In the autumn after I returned to OPG, I was the mid-cycle team lead looking at performance of one of our stations. That expertise was helpful for our fleet as we had only ever done one mid-cycle on our own before this time.

I have supported training and mentoring to ensure that our team is ready for the interactions with WANO during our evaluations.

Being able to see performance holistically is also a skill that has helped our fleet. We should not need an external body to come to our site to point out our improvement opportunities. There is no reason for us to not understand our performance ourselves. Helping our team with self-awareness and self-correction has been essential in helping our teams to continue to improve performance.

Our fleet has built more industry connections with each person that has attended WANO as a secondment.  We can leverage those connections during evaluations and as part of the broader industry. Being able to call an industry peer is comforting – especially when you are dealing with something challenging.

At OPG, we have a development matrix for our various levels of leadership from first line manager all the way up to senior leaders. For our nuclear senior leaders, Plant Manager, and Senior Vice President and above like CNO, we like to have these individuals go on a WANO secondment as part of their development plans. This helps with perspective for those individuals helping them to think about plant performance differently than when they are at the station. We have seen that people that have completed a secondment return to the station with additional ability to help improve performance as well as ability to influence their peers as part of the experience they have gained.

We have built industry development opportunities into our independent development plans allowing our staff to self-identify their desire to attend various courses or secondments. Additionally, we utilize succession planning to make sure that we develop our high potential employees including secondments to WANO. 

It is a key focus for development for senior leaders. Benefits include benchmarking of best practices, industry connections, ability to look at performance differently.  By placing your top talent on secondments at WANO, you can enhance the performance of your organisation, the secondee and the entire global industry.

Kathleen Carew
Director of Operations and Maintenance at Darlington Nuclear