Together, we are stronger. This is how Jacques Régaldo, chairman of WANO, an association focusing on the safety of nuclear power plants, sums up the organization’s goals. Fennovoima joined the organization two years ago. The company wanted to act early.
WANO (World Association of Nuclear Operators) was established in 1989, and its members include commercial operators from a total of 34 countries. WANO focuses on matters concerning the safety of nuclear power plants and distributes related information to its members.
– We can learn from one another and develop best practices for safety matters, says chairman Jacques Régaldo, who visited Finland in December.
Régaldo has a long experience in the energy sector himself: he has worked at EDF, a global energy company, for 32 years and held different managerial positions. Today, he works as Operating Senior Vice President of the Generation and Engineering Division.
Cast the anchors
Huge dumpers move stone at the large Hanhikivi 1 construction site in Pyhäjoki. In the morning of the interview, Régaldo has just paid a visit to the construction site area.
– It was really interesting to get to see the construction site, he says.
Régaldo hopes that all new nuclear power companies would join the association already at the beginning of their operations.
– We discussed the membership of Fennovoima with the company’s representatives at an early stage of the project, and signed a general agreement.
WANO wishes to anchor all new nuclear power companies tightly in its operation, as this provides mutual benefits.
– The earlier power companies join the association, the quicker they have the chance to obtain safety-related information and both support other operators and learn from them.
Training for the whole supply chain
Infrastructure and auxiliary and support buildings are currently being built at the Hanhikivi 1 construction site.
– During my visit to Finland, I discussed safety-related matters with both the CEO and the chairman of the board, Régaldo says.
The topics discussed included WANO's technical support mission. It is one of the association's central tools for developing safety culture at nuclear power plants.
– What is important is how training for the appropriate safety culture is arranged so that it can be applied in practice from the start of the project.
The planning of a power plant must have advanced quite far at the stage where a construction license is applied for.
– Sub-suppliers must also know the safety margins throughout the construction stage at the site. Sub-suppliers are also trained, together with the whole personnel. The monitoring of safety continues throughout the power plant's lifecycle.
Toward best practices
As such, WANO does not promote the construction of nuclear energy; it focuses solely on safety.
– It does not matter if there is one reactor or two reactors in the world, or a thousand. But it is clear that due to climate change, many countries are keeping nuclear power as a part of their energy palette, Régaldo says.
The Chernobyl and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accidents have also had an impact on WANO’s operations. The organization was established after the Chernobyl accident. After Fukushima, the operation has been renewed in several stages. Safety work for new projects starts earlier than before.
The organization has developed best practices among its members. According to Régaldo, the new tools also include the evaluation of safety situations. It is performed by peer review specialists from other power companies.
Such an evaluation will also be performed at Fennovoima, bringing the industry's best practices to the company.
– For new nuclear power projects, we apply an individually customized and very detailed new unit assistance program. The program starts even before the first concrete is cast, Régaldo says.
How safe is it then to build nuclear power in Finland?
– Finland is not China or Japan, and the risks are in many respects lower. Still, the lessons learned, for instance, from Fukushima have been taken into account in the Hanhikivi 1 project.
As an example, Régaldo mentions raising the base level of the nuclear power plant site to five meters above sea level in case the sea level should rise in some thousand years.
Cultural differences evened out
WANO has offices around the world, also in Russia. The plant supplier of Hanhikivi 1 is RAOS Project, a part of the Russian Rosatom Group.
– The organization has members from dozens of countries. It is only natural that there are cultural differences between the countries. This is also the case with Finland and Russia. However, I would like to point out that Russia and Rosatom have considerable experience of new projects implemented abroad, as well as of VVER pressurized water reactors, Régaldo says.
Bringing different cultures together and increasing mutual understanding is also an internal goal for the organization. Because of this, the organization arranges, for instance, training for benchmarking safety-related practices between different operators.
– People from different countries participate in our courses, which helps us learn to understand each other better.
This is important as WANO will be a partner for the power plants throughout their lifecycle, whether it is 30 or 50 years.
• An organization of power plant operators focusing on the safety of nuclear power plants.
• Headquartered in London, with five regional offices.
• The members include all companies producing nuclear power from 34 countries.
• Has worked since 2007 as the head of the engineering division of the French EDF (Electricité de France).
• Chairman of WANO since 2013.
• Has been employed by EDF for 32 years in various assignments, including managerial positions in hydroelectric power, nuclear power and HR.
• Engineer’s degree from École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées.
• Memberships: British Energy Group and Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG). Has worked as the chairman of safety committee at the latter.