The Need for Long-Term Operation Training


03 June 2021

3 minutes

The Need for Long-Term Operation Training: a Q&A with Emma Wong of EPRI

The World Nuclear University's upcoming Strategic Leadership Academy, to be held virtually on 19-30 July, focuses on two key areas of nuclear plant management – long-term operation (LTO) and plant life management. 

As countries worldwide strive to reduce carbon emissions to meet increasingly stringent energy goals, nuclear has reemerged in the global conversation about sustainable energy and climate change. There has also been a growing focus for plant managers on navigating the challenges of plant life management and long-term operation. 

The coronavirus pandemic has amplified the need for managerial training on maintaining nuclear power plants in uncertain economic, regulatory, and geopolitical environments. In preparation for the WNU's Strategic Leadership Academy, aimed at developing future nuclear leaders through online training and real-world scenarios, WNU spoke to Emma Wong, Principal Technical Leader in Innovation at EPRI, about why she believes LTO is an essential topic for nuclear power plant leadership development and what factors affect LTO decisions.

WNU: Why should future nuclear power plant managers be concerned with LTO?

EW: LTO is more than just 'extending' the life of a plant; it's long-term asset management or ageing management. Every power plant starts ageing the moment construction has begun. Whether it will be operating for 30 years, 80 years, or even 100 years, managing these assets to be operated safely should be everyone's focus. More importantly, future nuclear plant managers should understand the different aspects that could affect LTO to make optimal decisions.
WNU: What skills are necessary for nuclear plant managers to make informed decisions about plant life management and operational effectiveness?

EW: Some may think that all a manager needs to know is the economics of running a power plant, but there's so much more to consider. Decisions should not only be based on economic considerations but also on optimizing the management of plant asset health. To do that, all aspects of ageing and asset management should be taken into account, in addition to regulatory, business, and social factors. 

WNU: What are the main concerns for managers when considering nuclear plant modernization? 

EW: From my perspective, the three main concerns are: i) how to achieve the plant upgrade; ii) the associated costs; and iii) public perception and regulation. Plant modernization could be achieved through innovation, and any technology that leads to improved performance (e.g., a power uprate) reduces the effective cost of the technology. For instance, the EPRI Plant Modernization Program explores how technology transformation is adopted in other industries such as gas and chemical processing and applies this to the nuclear sector to reduce plant operating costs and improve safety and reliability. 

WNU: Why is LTO a salient topic of discussion in today's global regulatory and geopolitical environment? 

EW: One way for nuclear to play a role in the worldwide decarbonization effort is through the LTO of existing plants. Nuclear has always been a clean energy source, and keeping these already-built facilities operating for the long term greatly contributes to decarbonization while also maintaining jobs and tax revenue. If improvements can be made to lower the costs of LTO, then this option becomes even more appealing.

WNU: Are there any new developments in nuclear energy that could affect future plant managers? 

EW: While nuclear plants provide clean energy in terms of electricity, the nuclear industry is also starting to explore hydrogen production, which can be used in the manufacturing and transport sectors. In this way, nuclear power will impact more than just the electricity sector in the decarbonization effort. 

WNU would like to thank Emma Wong for insights into nuclear power plant long-term operation and her ongoing support of WNU's Strategic Leadership Academy as a Programme Committee member.

The application deadline for the Strategic Leadership Academy is 15 June 2021.

Written by
World Nuclear University

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