“There is certainly a renewed interest in nuclear power”
Luis Soriano has been Director of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) since 2020. He has worked in the nuclear industry since 1982, starting with the commissioning of the Grohnde and Trillo nuclear power plants and afterwards leading Corporate Safety, Licenses and Environment until in 1999 he was named Energy and Special Projects Director at Trillo and Almaraz Nuclear Power Plants (CNAT). He has broad international experience in the nuclear industry and has cooperated with numerous institutions, including the European Community of Atomic Energy (EURATOM) or the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In this interview with Foro Nuclear he points out that WANO mission is to maximise nuclear safety. “We do not promote nuclear power”.
What are the main activities carried out by the World Association of Nuclear Operators, and how many members are there?
WANO is a not-for-profit international organisation that helps its members maximise the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants worldwide. WANO works with its membership to assess, benchmark and improve performance through mutual support, exchange of information and emulation of best practices. The Association’s members operate some 429 nuclear units in over 30 countries and areas worldwide.
A key service that WANO provides are peer reviews, which help member plants compare themselves against standards of excellence through an in-depth, objective physical visit and review of their operations by an independent team from outside their organisation.
And how do these peer reviews work?
The peer review team produce a report that highlights strengths and areas for improvement in nuclear safety and plant reliability. Through peer reviews, members learn and share worldwide insights on safe and reliable plant operation and thereby improve their own performance. The same principles extend to companies, as well as stations, in the form of the corporate peer review.
“Through WANO peer reviews, members learn and share worldwide insights on safe and reliable plant operation”
Another key service is ‘Trends and Performance Monitoring’, which collects, screens and analyses operating experience and performance data, providing members with lessons learnt and industry performance insight reports. Fundamental to its success is the willingness of WANO members to openly share their operating experience and performance data for the benefit of other nuclear operators throughout the world.
Can you summarize how WANO is organized, how many headquarters there are and the professional profiles of the WANO teams?
WANO consists of a Governing Board, a central office in London and regional centres in Atlanta, Moscow, Paris and Tokyo, each with their own regional governing boards. Policy is set by the Governing Board and all policies and programmes are implemented by the WANO London office and the regional centres.
Each office or regional centre has a blend of technical (with a discipline/expertise required at a nuclear power plant, such as maintenance, engineering, operations among others) and non-technical staff (typically support functions such as communications, finance or administration).
Given that WANO focuses on nuclear safety and this is a cause of concern for the public opinion, what can you tell us about the safety of nuclear power plants?
WANO is a truly unique organisation. Our sole mission is to maximise nuclear safety -we do not promote nuclear power-; our sole focus is on safety. What I can say is that our members’ collaboration under WANO is truly special – organisations from around the world – some of whom are competitors – come together to share information and best practices and support each other to drive safety and reliability at all plants globally.
“Our members share information and best practices and support each other to drive safety at all nuclear power plants”
There are very few industries – if any - in the world that do this. Our shared vision is to drive excellence in every plant and facility, not just meet regulatory standards, but achieve excellence in performance. Every owner and operator of a commercial nuclear power plant is a member – this underscores our collective will to never stand still but to continuously improve.
Do you consider that there is good coordination amongst nuclear operators around the world? What channels of communications do you use?
Yes, we facilitate good coordination and collaboration between our members through our regional centres and offices. Our regional centres organise several events where our members can meet each other either face to face or virtually to work together and support each other.
We have a specially dedicated, secure member website which enables members to access key information, with thousands of best practices and guidelines and special reports to help them maximise safety and reliability.
We share relevant information directly with individual members, and each member has an employee called a WANO Interface Officer that is responsible for being the interface between WANO and each member, ensuring that the latest information is shared with their colleagues at the plant.
Our London office also organises bi-annual events with different regional centres, such at the Site Vice Presidents and Plant Managers Conference and the Biennial General Meeting, to ensure the global leaders of our industry can network, share information, understand trends, discuss industry challenges and solutions to them, to maximise performance at their plants.
You have been Director of WANO in Paris since 2020. What is your mission and what are your main activities?
Every day I do my best to help our members in the pursuit of excellence in nuclear safety. For that, I have to build a strong Paris Centre able to supply the products and services that fits to each of our 67 stations (182 units) in 16 countries around the world.
During my mandate, Paris Centre has faced important challenges, such us the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine. During the pandemic, we were able to continue our support to the stations, adapting the way of interaction accordingly with the national regulations and developing new remote interaction capabilities.
Related to the war in Ukraine, several members originally affiliated to Moscow centre have changed their affiliation to us. The main challenge is of course affecting Energoatom, the owner of the 4 nuclear stations (15 units) in Ukraine. It is a great example for our community how they are dealing with the nuclear safety in such extreme circumstances, and it is an honour for Paris centre and for myself personally to collaborate with them even with our very limited possibilities considering the war situation.
Do you think we are experiencing a nuclear impulse around the world?
There is certainly a renewed interest in nuclear power in some nations and regions. This is partly driven by the fact that nuclear is typically a reliable source of baseload power and it is a low carbon source of energy. So alongside renewables, it supports the drive to net zero and it also helps provide energy security to some countries.
“Nuclear is a reliable source of baseload power and a low carbon source of energy”
However, we should not become complacent – safety is the priority as if we have a serious accident anywhere, institutional and public acceptance of nuclear will diminish in many parts of the world. We need to work together and support each other to constantly improve – a safer plant is typically a much more reliable one.
How would you define the Spanish nuclear industry?
All the nuclear power stations in Spain are nowadays positioned at a very high level in terms of both WANO rating and index. These are standard performance indicators that we use to have a homogenous picture on how the stations worldwide are doing in relationship with nuclear safety. However, staying at the top requires a continuous day-to-day effort at all the levels of the organisations.