Project Management Institute

Combining Energy

Nuclear Power Projects Have Their Share of Risks That a Collaborative, Cross-Organizational Approach Can Mitigate


Managing risks on a nuclear power project is a daunting prospect. Safety is paramount, but project professionals also must cope with environmental, budget, schedule and quality risks. One strategy for managing all these risks is to collaborate with other organizations in similar situations.

We are using this approach on my current project, Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) Darlington Refurbishment, which launched in 2016. This CA$12.8 billion, 10-year megaproject will extend the life of the Darlington nuclear power plant's four nuclear reactors by 30 years.

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Risk Reactor

We are managing this project's risks in part by sharing lessons learned and best practices with representatives of two other nuclear power plants that have the same reactor design. This cooperation reduces the chance that one organization will overlook a key threat and allows all three organizations to take advantage of opportunities they might have overlooked. Employees from the three companies hold frequent conference calls and face-to-face meetings to share how their respective teams are managing risk and overcoming challenges.

In addition, project team members from one of the organizations, Canada's Bruce Power, have spent months at a time with OPG, working alongside the Darlington project teams. Having more experts on the project increases the chances of identifying potential problems that could have been overlooked and helps to mitigate any potential cost or schedule impacts to the critical path. In addition, project teams at Bruce Power have shared with OPG lessons learned from a previous reactor project. This allowed OPG teams to better understand the potential risks that could occur when Darlington's reactor vault was opened.

Resource Fission

With Bruce Power launching its own project in 2016, a 16-year, CA$13 billion initiative to extend the life of its reactors in Ontario, Canada, both projects face a high risk of not having enough specialized tradespeople. So the two organizations have been working together to align schedules and reduce potential shortages. This type of collaboration is crucial for both reactor refurbishments—without it, each project likely would suffer cost overruns and schedule delays. In addition, both organizations jointly researched other large projects happening across the province during the same period to understand their potential impact on resource availability.

Collaboration with competing organizations is usually frowned upon. But just as breaking down silos in an organization can lower risk, knowledge sharing with other organizations can too. Understanding alternative processes and sharing lessons learned can promote continuous improvements on both sides. Most importantly, cross-organizational collaboration can reduce projects’ costs and shorten schedules while increasing overall safety and quality. PM



img Joe Campa, PMI-PBA, PMI-RMP, PMP, is risk lead specialist, nuclear refurbishment, Ontario Power Generation, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.
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