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Building strong leadership at Sanmen 

Wu Yuanming, President at Sanmen Nuclear Power Company was a speaker at WANO’s recent Site Vice Presidents’ and Plant Managers’ conference. Here is a summary of his speech on how leadership is at the centre of his plant’s goal to drive excellence in its operations.
It’s a great honour to be here to share my experience on the topic of effective leadership. My speech will focus on leading the organisation to achieve excellence by enhancing effective leadership in all areas. 

At Sanmen Unit 2, at the end of 2019, soon after its commercial operation, we found that an isolation valve of chemical and volume control system could not be fully closed automatically inside the containment. 

To permanently solve it, we needed to replace the valve actuator and the spare actuator was to be delivered. Before then, operators had to manually close the valve in the containment every one or two weeks, and personnel hatch door seals had to be tested after every containment access. This increases the containment entries and the risk of personnel airlock failure. To prepare the replacement during full power operation, maintenance estimated the job need 176 man-hours; and health physics evaluated the collective dose may be higher than 14 man. mSv. It was too high compared with that for the valve manipulation. 

My team came to me and, as a leader, I considered how we should respond? 

I believe communication is the first key step. I talked with my team, and considered what were the key challenges based on previous experience. As the first AP1000 unit worldwide, we did not have any external experience for reference. We needed to ensure the plant and personnel safety were always our first priority. In this moment, I remembered what I learned from WANO leadership training. Questions always make people think, inspire creativity and initiative, and are more effective than suggestions or teaching. So I asked my team three questions - do we have a clear goal, could we improve the estimated working time and have a more precise estimation of the exposure, did we use all professionals to optimise the plan?

Following this, my team took initiatives, and achieved successful results. The plan was optimised by aggressive thinking and selection from various options. The actual job was done within 101 man hours, 57 per cent of that estimated, and the collective dose which was 0.58 man.mSv, only four per cent of the initial estimation, even surpassed my expectation. Communication and inspiration are good tools.  

In this changing world with many external uncertainties and internal challenges, one thing we must ensure is always pursuing higher safety and performance. Like all nuclear professionals, I hope my organisation can be the best. So our key aims are to do it right, and do it better - be safe, and be reliable. I have a young talented team with the average age of 34, and two new AP1000 units in operation for about two years. They are very valuable assets with high potential. 

How can we unleash the potential? 

I believe leaders should play an important leadership role through ensuring that leadership capability permeates into all levels of an organisation. Another key factor is to establish a common vision within the organisation, and encourage all levels and members of staff to achieve the expectations that have been set. 
We developed a Leaders in the Field programme, with designated managers and executives in the field every week. 

Leaders reinforce safety requirements, provide coaching to employees and contractors, and inspire best practices to accelerate resolution of issues. People respond to us with their proactive actions. Leadership is the foundation for driving the motivation and execution of the organisation. As a new plant, we have experienced many challenges during construction. Leadership guided us on the right direction. 

Sanmen Unit 1 achieved an excellent WANO performance index rating in the first fuel cycle. It has demonstrated our commitment to strong operational performance. Amid these sorts of challenges, I’m confident that the effective permeation of leadership throughout our staff will continue to lead our organisation to excellence.