Innovations and Improvements at Almaraz Nuclear Power
Bringing large-scale improvements to nuclear power plant operations is complex, difficult and costly. SMART Project Delivery proved to be an essential partner as a Spanish nuclear power plant took on multiple projects aimed at capacity, safety and efficiency.
The Almaraz Nuclear Power Plant is located in Almaraz (Caceres) in Spain. The plant uses the international Tagus River that runs into Portugal for cooling. In 2019, the gross production generated between two units at Almaraz was 16,996 million kWh. and the joint net production has been 16,326 million kWh. Since 2005 Realization’s partner, CMG Consultores of Spain, has worked alongside team Almaraz, bringing expertise and SMART Project Delivery software to help navigate planned shutdowns and ongoing projects.
Several types of ongoing projects take place at Almaraz. Design modification projects take from one to six months and often involve 150 mechanical, electrical, and civil engineers. This work is critically important to the ongoing efficiency and safety of the plant. Persistent challenges lurked in many of those initiatives. Projects would launch but wouldn’t get fully finished. Sometimes, engineers couldn’t begin work because of issues with management input and approvals. The engineering work was being done to prepare for precisely planned shutdowns, so timing and completion were critical. The more efficient and successful the engineering teams were in this phase the safer and more efficient plant operations would be.
Special projects entailed precisely planned annual shutdowns. The work might include new generators, interim nuclear waste storage installation and fuel building filtration units and more.
Special projects also included a once-in-a-lifetime shutdown for power uprate work designed to increase the capacity of the plant. During a power uprate, a third of the fuel is replaced and the other two thirds are moved around to make for even burning. Improvements would lead to a more efficient use of nuclear fuel, an increase in the overall efficiency of reactor operations, and increased equipment reliability. Almaraz normally employs 400 workers. During the power uprate shutdown, the workforce grows to 3,000 workers.
Three-thousand workers of varying skills—many of whom had not worked together before—had a set number of days to execute on a vast amount of difficult and complex work. Which meant that the way the plant had been operating—a systematic, business-as-usual operation with 600 employees, would have to change. The value of one day of production at the Almaraz plant was 1million euros.
An overriding question was: What can we do in the time we have to implement more design modifications and other improvements to increase the safety and capacity of the plant?
Managing a broad array of challenges
On the design modification front, the design process is iterative. Not every task could be defined upfront and the sequencing of tasks was flexible. How long would any given task take? How many people would it take? Requirements changed. During shutdown, inspections might reveal a need for even more maintenance and scope. It was no small challenge to manage and align so many workers—with varying skills—who were on site for a such a short time. As in most projects, there were a lot of internal and external resources involved. None of whom were in the control of project leadership.
There would be intense competition. For mechanics, electrical and I&C (instrumentation and control). For support resources like planners, schedulers, engineers, expeditors. For facilities and equipment, cranes, scafolders, and backshops). And for managers too: supervisors, leads, managers.
SMART Project Delivery: stable plans, focus & finish
To help Almaraz, CMG Consultores set in motion a slate of best practices enabled by Realization’s SMART Project Delivery System. They rewrote the rules, moving from a keep people busy approach to a focus and finish mode. They replaced the concept of single projects/activities with dedicated resources, for one where the resources were global and shared between activities. They swapped out allocating a specific amount of time to a task, for one where time buffers are global and shared between activities or tasks.
Project activities would exist at two levels: Planning Tier (management unit phase) and Execution Tier (subtask, checklist, volume). Stagger Planning Tier tasks to promote the focus and finish mode. Every day the number of open tasks in Execution Tier would be controlled to reduce multitasking and help teams focus on just a few jobs. In daily management meetings, critical decisions were made to keep the project in control, and everyone fully aligned. Even despite the uncertainty. Every project or management unit would have a preparation process, or a full kit associated with it.
SMART Project Delivery’s Management System
- Tasks based on focus and finish
- Used for project management
- Determines Critical Path/Chain
- Subtasks based on work to be done
- Used for daily task management
- Dependencies are only a reference
- More dynamic and flexible
SMART Project Delivery:
Define the management unit
Build 2-tiered activity networks for each unit
Stagger the management units
Provide daily schedules to know what tasks to work on and what problems to solve.