There’s no doubt that your nuclear power plant simulator is one of your most valuable and heavily used resources. But is it becoming a bottleneck that’s placing your training success at risk? Many utilities are asking themselves that same question. And more, they are wondering, “Does it make sense to invest in a second simulator?” Here are 4.5 reasons your peers considered coming to this critical conclusion.
1. The Changing Workforce
The long dreaded turnover of experienced workers is finally upon us. Operator training programs are faced with initial licensing more than ever before. That means more Initial License Operator classes and a bigger burden on your staff. And your simulator! For those utilities, training operators of two units on one reference simulator, the availability of quality simulator time is even more challenging.
A second plant simulator provides several benefits to help alleviate the challenges:
- Flexibility in scheduling
- A possible reduction in off-shift training and associated cost
- The ability for improved additional throughput – or at least elimination of the possibility of a single point of failure in your operator training program
2. Leveraging the Investment
While initially purchased and intended for training, the simulator can be a valuable resource for your entire organization. Today’s simulators, when built from the ground up or modified with the latest modeling tools, are much more sophisticated than older versions built with hand-coded models. More of the plant is simulated, fewer assumptions are used, and the modeling technologies and techniques provide a much more realistic representation of real plant performance. Engineering, emergency planning, operations, maintenance and the executive suite can all benefit from having a realistic and dynamic model of the plant to use for change analysis, procedure verification, human factors, and training certifications. A second plant simulator can support all of these additional uses.
How much more agile and efficient could your organization be if it had access to a state-of-the-art working model of your plant? Think about it.
3. Synchronizing Training and Engineering
Your plant is constantly undergoing changes and upgrades to improve efficiency, replace obsolete systems, increase electrical output, and improve safety. For two-unit sites, the changes seem constant! With only one simulator available for operator training, you need to decide when to implement changes and how to train effectively on two different control room environments. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) pays attention to the physical fidelity of your “reference plant” simulator and the timing of changes in the simulator versus the real unit. Two plant simulators allow for better planning and more efficient training, adding agility to your operations workforce.
4. Site-Wide Events
The events at Fukushima taught us an accident at a nuclear site may not be limited to just one unit. For multi-unit sites, the interplay between operating units and the ability to train your staff on site-wide response scenarios could be the difference that prevents disaster. Training on an integrated response between units is challenging at best, and overly simplified at worst. Tying two simulators together can provide effective operator training on dual unit events such as grid disturbances and emergency operations procedures.
4.5 Do the Math
Depending upon the number of license holders at your facility – and the need for initial and requalification training and maintenance of SRO certifications – your team’s plant simulator contact hours could fall below the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations’ (INPO) recommended 60 hours annually.
Think of it this way. There are only so many hours in a year in which to train your operators. A second plant simulator doubles the availability for operator training, ensuring that your staff meets or exceeds the industry standard recommendations in the best training environment possible.
What challenges will you face when moving forward with a second plant simulator? What questions should you consider to ensure a successful project? Check back often so you don’t miss our future post “So You’ve Decided to Build a Second Simulator…Now What?”