When work is always performed the same way, it can be difficult to see how to improve. That was the case with one utility that had always used a single vendor for outages. The utility had a goal to finish their outages in 22 days or less. They were never going to make that goal if they didn’t make changes. That’s when they joined the all-star team.

The utility brought in Framatome to perform refueling, reactor services, steam generator services and reactor coolant pump (RCP) field services. One of the very first things we did was put boots on the ground with a site director working at the plant full time. Our site director didn’t just work there, he moved to the community and got involved in the culture and everyday life of the plant. The dedicated site director was a key change on the road to championship outages for
the utility.

Work began with an extensive transition plan to move the plant from their previous way of executing to a new, more efficient model. Meetings were held with all the stakeholders, our teams showed up early to review procedures, and site challenge meetings were held with executives from both the utility and Framatome. Then we had regular check-ins to hold everyone accountable for the transition and stay on-task.

The plant had a small, focused refueling team. We wanted to get them integrated with our teams and bring everyone to the all-star level. So, they traveled to Framatome’s Technical Training Center in Lynchburg, Va., to participate in a customized program and further develop the crew’s relationships. The combined team ensured success by working to improve procedures and eliminate redundancies as well as overcome barriers ahead of time.

Working together through the first outage, we found even more opportunities to improve. We were able to bring incremental improvements based on best practices used at other sites and used our rigorous Readiness Review. These improvements were truly eye-opening and refreshing for the plant. We also brought new tooling to make things easier — custom shoe horn cables that eliminate tangles, magic hooks for rigging, and reverse guide studs to help align the reactor head. We used our extensive suite of plant-specific mockups for just-in-time training to ensure technician proficiency so we were prepared when in containment and on critical path. Plus, we used a work package coordinator to look ahead at next steps, keep tasks on track and close out work faster.

Lots of incremental improvements added up to big change. The transition was highly successful because it was seamless and completed without needing any OEM intellectual property. Throughout both outages to date, safety was outstanding, and the plant was supported for a 22-day outage goal. Meeting the goal is never the end — we look for continuous improvement. Framatome has recommended plant modifications which would further reduce the outage schedule, such as an upgraded reactor vessel cavity seal that the utility is implementing to improve future outages.

Saving time and money and bringing new ideas to the table is just what you’d expect when you’re part of the Framatome Refueling all-star team.