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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Employees learn the skills of nuclear decommissioning
Article Type: Notes and news From: Industrial and Commercial Training, Volume 43, Issue 3
Magnox South nuclear power station workers have undertaken self-delivered training that supports the delivery of decommissioning projects, resulting in savings of millions of pounds in efficiencies.
Robert Kury, site director, Magnox South, said: “The worker/trainer programme has played a significant role in meeting the challenges and opportunities that occur during the transition from generation to defuelling and throughout decommissioning. Committed to project delivery, staff have shown diligence, determination and flexibility in their quest to acquire new skills and become more competent in their use of innovative decommissioning techniques to achieve cost-effective delivery for the customer.”
In December 2006, nuclear-powered electricity generation ended at the last two Magnox South sites, creating a need for a nuclear-decommissioning company rather than an electricity producer. Recruiting the relatively rare staff who specialise in nuclear decommissioning would have been expensive and protracted, while making existing power-station staff redundant would also have been costly. Instead the decision was taken to retrain the highly-skilled and largely local workforce, allowing the company to deliver safe decommissioning while retaining nuclear skills for the future.
A worker/trainer programme was launched to equip staff to deliver decontamination and deplanting (D&D) training to their peers. Initially, in 2007, ten workers, appointed from the existing technical workforce, were trained through an 18-day training course run over six weeks. One-third was theoretical and two-thirds simulation, with training skills observed and applied in a realistic work environment created by a specially-built simulator.
The worker/trainers then trained their colleagues in formal group sessions, with job-based observation, simulation and written assessment against a competency matrix. Adjustments were made following the evaluation of a pilot programme. The course design has been mapped against the National Vocational Qualification in nuclear decommissioning.
Today the programme is firmly established, with 16 worker/trainers having delivered training to more than 100 members of staff. Of those trained, 18 have completed an NVQ level two in nuclear decommissioning; three then completed an NVQ level three. A partnership with a US decommissioning company has helped to fill any gaps in knowledge. As a result, Magnox South is now fully equipped to undertake full D&D activities. Training has to date cost a total of £140,000, supported by Train to Gain funding, but if external trainers had been brought in the cost would have been £50,000 more.
The then managing director, Ken Powers, summed up the wider financial benefits: “Thanks to the flexibility and enthusiasm of our workforce […] we have generated more than £46 million of efficiency savings.”
Other benefits from the in-house training, which takes up to 20 per cent of worker/trainers’ time, include standardised procedures across the business, a reskilled and retained workforce, the completion of projects on time and within budget, resulting in increased fees from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). At the same time, safety has been maintained in the face of huge change. The programme has been endorsed as best practice by the National Skills Academy Nuclear, and may be used in other parts of the nuclear estate in future.
Robert Kury said: “Highly motivated teams that can self-perform the work required have established a model for future safe, compliant and efficient project delivery for Magnox South.”
Magnox South Ltd was formed in 2008 as part of restructuring the civil nuclear estate. Contracted to decommission five nuclear-power stations, it employs 1,600 people at the sites of Berkeley, Gloucestershire; Bradwell, Essex; Dungeness A, Kent; Hinkley Point A, Somerset; and Sizewell A, Suffolk. It is an Investors in People-accredited company and has signed the Skills Pledge.
The training won a large-employer prize in the National Training Awards.