Book review: ‘Nuclear energy leadership–lessons learned from US operators’

Staff Review

Chapter 1 begins by touting U.S. commercial nuclear power safety, production and financial performance during the past 30 years before explaining the worldwide impacts of the March 11, 2011, earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan.

Within two weeks of the disaster, Rogers writes, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission initiated a comprehensive safety review of U.S. nuclear power plants, starting with a near-term (90-day) task force to evaluate lessons from Fukushima, as well as a long-term task force.

In July 2011, the near-term task force concluded, “The current regulatory approach, and more importantly, the resultant plant capabilities allow the Task Force to conclude that a sequence of events like the Fukushima accident is unlikely to occur in the United States and some appropriate mitigation measures have been implemented, reducing the likelihood of core damage and radiological releases. Therefore, continued operation and continued licensing activities do not pose an imminent risk to public health and safety.”

Rogers writes, “Public concern and questions about the safety of U.S. nuclear plants were ubiquitous in the weeks following the Fukushima disaster. ” Although polls showed a decline in support for nuclear power immediately after Fukushima, six months later the majority (67 percent) of Americans rated U.S. nuclear power plant safety high.”

Nevertheless, according to the book, nuclear power critics still point fingers at potential problems at some U.S. nuclear plants related to emergency preparedness for simultaneous problems at multiple units, availability of backup power for spent fuel pools and flooding.

In response, the NRC has released multiple statements on steps it and plant operators have taken to address each area.

Despite its critics, nuclear power is only one-tenth of the total U.S. electricity generation capacity, yet it generates one-fifth of the electricity used, Rogers writes.

She contends that the anticipated nuclear renaissance slowed substantially before Fukushima as a result of low natural gas prices and electricity rates.

Fracking, she writes, has made nuclear power construction less appealing to potential investors, and that’s on top of concerns such as high construction costs, the recession, and lower than expected demand for electricity.

Rogers writes that nuclear power will continue to be a fundamental part of the U.S. energy portfolio, but with a more gradual expansion.

She goes on to write that the Obama administration remains vocally supportive of nuclear generation, unlike German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Chapter 1 closes with a section on learning from U.S. nuclear power operators.

The conclusion of each chapter is devoted to experiences with and suggestions for transferring nuclear lessons to other industrial environments.

The last section of the book includes tools to assess and intervene at the team and organizational levels, plus a review of nuclear and related electricity generation organizations.

Other chapters focus on self-regulation; nuclear safety culture; operational focus; continuous performance improvement; talent development and knowledge management; organizational structure, accountability and outage management; nuclear industry leadership; turnaround experts; nuclear first-line supervisor; and site senior leadership team.

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Mary Jo Rogers is a partner at the management consulting firm Strategic Talent Solutions (STS), where she is the practice leader for energy and utility leadership and organizational consulting. Prior to STS, Rogers was the head of management development at Exelon Nuclear, where she was also in charge of creating standard processes for supervisor and leadership assessments for all of Exelon. Rogers originally was trained and licensed as a clinical psychologist and earned her doctorate from Loyola University in Chicago.

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