THE COOLING TANK
In the face of nuclear energy’s mottled history, project managers must also be prepared to face public
opposition. “Public concern is one of the major challenges all across the world,” says Mr. Sivagnana.
Using social media, TV and radio can help project teams educate the public about the benefits
of nuclear energy—and the steps that will be taken to mitigate safety risks during construction
and operation, he says.
“In India we have a system: When a project is launched, there is a public consultation that
takes place that clearly brings out the opinions of the public,” Mr. Sivagnana says. That feedback
is then incorporated into final design changes, when possible.
In India, for example, a common concern is the potential impact of radiation on local agri-
culture and wildlife. Fishing villages, in particular, worry about the impact of hot water released
by nuclear power plants into the ocean. “A lot of reactors are built on the coastline because they
need water for cooling,” explains Mr. Kaser. “Fishing villages may be concerned that the water
temperature will change because of the reactor using water as coolant, so [plant designers] must
put in controls to ensure there isn’t an impact.”
Because of such concerns, the Indian government
appoints local committees whose members include
local villagers who monitor the progress of projects.
“If the public feels part of it, it won’t act against the
project,” Mr. Sivagnana says.
To make new nuclear projects as safe as possible, project managers must follow strict regulatory
requirements that span multiple levels of government. And these regulations are always evolving.
For instance, a combined construction permit and
operating license (COL) requires all potential safety
issues to be resolved during the design phase as
part of the licensing process. Global implementation of this best practice means a new reactor’s
operating license must be approved before funding
and resources are committed, rather than after construction is complete. The result is a more tightly
controlled design—but a more volatile schedule,
as project teams lose the flexibility to solve design
challenges on the fly.
“One of the risks of having a combined operating
and construction license is that you have to build
things exactly the way you say you’re going to build
them,” says Andrew R. Cato III, PMP, construction
compliance supervisor at Southern Nuclear Operating Co., which is building two reactors in Waynesboro, Georgia, USA. “Any time you deviate from
your design, you have to go back to the regulator for
is a big gap when it
comes to building
and commissioning a
nuclear power plant. The
knowledge of how to
do that has slowly but
surely eroded, and now it
has to be rebuilt.”
—Alexander Matthey, PMP