Improving design processes in the nuclear domain–Insights on organisational challenges from safety culture and resilience engineering perspectives
Magazine article, 2014
Design flaws have been contributing to major industrial accidents. However, design activities are understudied in human and organisational factors studies. In the nuclear power domain, both pre-operational design and design of modifications depend on a network of organizations, and aim at developing solutions which meet different criteria. Nuclear power companies often outsource the design work to organisations, which might not be hitherto familiar with the safety requirements of nuclear industry. The final phase of SADE project focused on testing and evaluating the results of the first two phases through in depth analysis of case studies conducted in Finland and Sweden. The study aimed at providing insights on the inter-organizational challenges related to design activities, which could potentially affect safety of the Nordic nuclear power plants. In 2013 we carried out 14 semi-structured interviews with representatives of power plant organisations, design organisations and regulators. Interviews of the Finnish case studies were complemented by one group interview each. The study indicated that design-related challenges in the nuclear domain are mainly inter-organizational. This implies that safety management and safety culture approaches should take better into account the inter-organisational nature of work processes. For some of the challenges (e.g. coordination) many coping practices exist throughout the network, whereas for others (e.g. shared understanding) just a few were mentioned. This signifies that design organisations have learned the consequences of insufficient coordination in previous projects, while reaching a shared understanding proves to be challenging. The design process involves both rational and creative approaches to deal with real-life problems. In nuclear industry, designers face the need to balance between fulfilling requirements and doing an extensive amount of paperwork, and creating new, safe and functional solutions. To better manage safety culture in design activities in a networked context, nuclear power companies and design supply chains need to reach a shared understanding on achieving this balance. Finally, the study provides a set of recommendations to support and improve the design process and to help anticipate emerging risks in the nuclear industry.
nuclear power industry