Scheduling a Nuclear Reactor Outage? Know What a VMS Can and Should Do | DCR Workforce Blog

Scheduling a Nuclear Reactor Outage? Know What a VMS Can and Should Do

nuclear energy industry

Mankind is put on notice by Stephen Hawking, the acclaimed physicist, who warned us against heedlessly rushing to a nuclear extinction, among other things. We all know that nuclear power plants are out of bounds for anyone without a security clearance and the reason for the many stringent precautions is not far to seek. After all, every nuclear energy company needs to schedule and manage its annual planned nuclear plant outages for cleaning, repair and maintenance when the fuel needs replacement while the valves and pipes get tested and repaired.

Such short-term assignments pose many challenges to any nuclear energy plant because it needs to:

  • Conduct extensive background checks on non-employees to ensure high levels of security.
  • Onboard 1,000 or more contingent labor within a short span of time like two weeks.

Most use highly skilled contingent workers to perform these services, to leave once the maintenance is done. The challenge lies in ensuring that all this is managed, without compromising any of the plant’s security and safety standards.

Specialized nuclear outage management skills

Outage workers are “specialists” with specific skill sets related to maintaining, cleaning and repairing nuclear reactors. They’re different from the regular nuclear power plant operators and they come in only during periods of lower power demand, like fall season. Most nuclear power companies establish long-term relationships with “contracting companies” to handle outage related contract jobs. Why?

  • Power companies try to keep the contracting work competitive by getting the best talent for the job.
  • The typical process to get the contract workforce for an outage begins at least three months prior to the start of the outage· The onboarding and briefing process takes two weeks before the start of the work.
  • There is a need for extensive background checks with a clear history of work record, criminal behavior checks and other security clearances and sign-offs.
  • Each plant has its own idiosyncrasies that require specific training to learn and manage them.

Is your VMS competent to handle a nuclear outage?

A Vendor Management System (VMS) helps businesses manage contingent workers, but not all systems can claim equal competence. Can your VMS incorporate the plant policy, co-ordination of available resources, nuclear safety, regulatory and technical requirements and all activities and work hazards, before and during the outage, through its management of the contingent workforces brought on board to perform the maintenance?

Read on to learn how these would prove indispensable given the peculiar needs and challenges faced by your business.

Make sure that your VMS has the following capabilities:

  • Has a demonstrated experience handling nuclear reactor outage workforce management, in-house experts and stellar work record.
  • Monitors training or interfaces with training systems to make sure required trainings are completed and up to date
  • Manages the entire contracting, credential and background checks, onboarding management following all the specialized and specific steps and processes, while handling large volumes of work with minimal manual steps.
  • Identifies the training needs and safety concerns of the contractors that need to be met before bringing them onboard.
  • Allows vendors to mass submit candidates, and stores that candidate information in the system for future submittals. Since the same contractors tend to work for the same vendors during outages, this saves time in both submission and onboarding.
  • Establishes the supervision needed to direct and control the activities of the contingent workforce and put processes in place to control and verify activities performed by them.
  • Enables the input of multiple pay rates paid to a traveling workforce, involving not only different rates but also different shift differentials, per diem, etc.
  • Tracks the safety requirements in the scheduling of workers to eliminate errors and avoids the ill-effects of fatigue due to working long hours.
  • Protects the intellectual property of the company by establishing a stellar process for onboarding as well as off-boarding the workers and controls their access to the premises once the assignment ends.
  • Provides compliance with export norms due to the sensitive nature of the knowledge and technology involved.
  • Establishes an alumni management program to ensure that any high-performing contingent workers can be offered and brought back in for a lifetime engagement.

If you’re a Chief Executive Officer or Chief Procurement Officer with a nuclear energy company planning to shop for or upgrade your VMS, do you insist on having these capabilities in your VMS?

Also check out DCR’s guidance on the 7 steps you should be taking to improve efficiencies during your next outage!

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Nick Myers is an implementation lead for DCR Workforce. He has implemented numerous programs globally and across multiple industries.