Book review: Managing Nuclear Projects12 March 2014
Robert Margolis reviews Woodhead's latest book on managing nuclear projects, a valuable reference tool for those new to the nuclear industry.
Woodhead Publishing's book, Managing Nuclear Projects: A Comprehensive Management Resource is true to its title. Editor Jas Devgun and contributors have not only assembled a far-reaching set of detailed discussions on the many areas of the nuclear enterprise, but they have provided an inside view of the workings of the many aspects of the nuclear economy. While it may not have much new information for experienced nuclear managers, the book does provide value for project managers new to the nuclear industry and students of engineering or management interested in learning about the unique aspects of the use of nuclear technology.
The book is arranged into four parts: basic principles; managing reactor projects; managing radioactive waste, decommissioning, and site remediation; and regulation, guidance and emergency management. Devgun has assembled a team of expert contributors from seven countries that provides global perspective of the myriad nuclear projects. The book could have included a better representation of the Asian or Middle Eastern nuclear organizations to reflect the current centre of nuclear growth; however, the team of contributors covers their subjects well and provide enriching details.
From generic principles...
The chapters in Part I review the generic principles of project management (for example, work breakdown structures, critical path management, and earned value management) and the unique aspects of nuclear applications (for example, radiation protection, safety, and nuclear quality requirements). It was interesting to learn that in addition to the standard scheduling tools such as Primavera P6, more advanced tools using Monte Carlo techniques are also available and in use. This section also provides details on such industry standards as the Systematic Approach to Training and use of Subject Matter Experts (SME). US Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover was famous for emphasizing the day-to-day details of nuclear work over selling any glamorous design concept. The introductory section stays with this philosophy and provides the reader with an accurate, matter-of-fact perspective of tasks that may be mundane on the surface but constitute the essentials of safe nuclear design, development, and operations when taken together.
Part II gives a rare view of the less-well-known aspects of the nuclear industry. A chapter on the types and uses of research reactors describes their differences in fuel and operating schedule compared to power reactor designs. Other chapters discuss developments in managing the production of medical radioisotopes and the management of nuclear R&D programmes and the various agencies that manage them (for example, NRC and DOE in the US, HSE in the UK, BMBF of Germany). A chapter on managing modifications, power uprates and outages gives the reader a deeper understanding inside the workings of operating power plants. Descriptions of modification processes, types and licensing of power uprates, and outage management requirements are all delineated. Discussions even include the management committee reviews and regulatory reviews (NRC) required based on the type or scope of the design change. Overall, these chapters provided an accurate portrayal of nuclear outage activities. This section would have been stronger had there been more specific examples of difficult projects how management processes or innovations resolved them.
...to specific examples of decommissioning projects
The management challenges of the latter portion of the nuclear life cycle (that is, waste management, decommissioning, and site remediation) are presented in Part III. These chapters describe the differences between decommissioning standard water-cooled plants and sodium-cooled fast reactors. Good summaries of the methods of decommissioning and waste processing were provided, including mentions of the types of waste treatment matrix materials. Many readers may not be aware that in addition to glass, cement, bitumen, and polymers are also used, depending upon the composition of the wastes. A wide range of successful decommissioning examples are provided, including Creys-Malville (the Superphénix fast reactor) and Rocky Flats (centre for plutonium trigger production for the US nuclear weapons arsenal). While it would have added greater value to have included comparisons between these successes and some of the well-known troubled projects (for example, the Hanford remediation), the chapters give an effective summary of the issues faced at the back end of the fuel cycle.
Part IV is concerned with what many people may consider to be the 'nuclear bureaucracy' portion of the industry. Yet the fields of quality assurance (QA), licensing, emergency response and international nuclear cooperation often have challenged the industry to a greater degree than revised core designs or new thermal-hydraulic methods. The chapter on QA provides comparisons of the various types of agencies and audits that evaluate these programmes (for example, NRC, WANO, IAEA). The licensing chapter discusses the regulatory systems of the USA, Finland, UK, and Germany, providing a panoramic view of the different ways that nuclear facilities may be licensed. The discussion of emergency response includes the history of and lessons learned from the accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. The last chapter demonstrates that there is more to international cooperation than ensuring nonproliferation: control of insect pests, molecular methods of studying drug-resistant malaria and pollution monitoring, for example.
Managing Nuclear Projects is a well-organized volume that has brought together the varied types of nuclear facilities, activities, and regulatory systems. Although the book would have been more effective with additional comparisons and analysis of nuclear management practices, it has incorporated the many discussions from its assorted contributors into a fluid work providing an array of inside knowledge on the activities, systems, and regulatory models of the modern nuclear industry for the nuclear novice.
About the reviewer
Robert Margolis PE is a degreed nuclear engineer with more than 27 years' experience as a reactor engineer, startup test engineer, project engineer, and safety analyst. He has worked in the USA, South Korea, and Sweden. Currently, he works as a reactor engineer in the USA.
Managing Nuclear Projects: A Comprehensive Management Resource [ISBN 9780857095916], edited by Dr. Jas Devgun, was published by Woodhead in July 2013. It is available to purchase for £140/$230.