ESG, Nuclear, nuclear energy, Sustainable Legacies

It’s more important than ever for organizations to adopt environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) commitments, and take action to deliver a better world. From concept to design and delivery, AECOM partners with clients to leave a positive, lasting impact on people and our planet. One way AECOM achieves this is by combining technical skills with holistic social, economic and environmental approaches to help clients deliver energy projects and programs that will create a net zero carbon power system across the world. Nuclear energy is one such resource that can lead to progressive sustainable development.

Nuclear energy is a carbon-free source of reliable electricity and stable power production that can be paired with other forms of renewable energy. In our world of rising fuels costs and strong focus on greenhouse gas reductions, safe and effective operation of nuclear facilities can offer an effective and sustainable energy alternative. For nuclear facilities, an integrated Quality Management System (QMS) is fundamental to the execution of all lifecycle work from initial concept through to final site restoration. A QMS is not only essential for the safe design and operation of all work done at nuclear facilities, it is also critical in meeting very specific and stringent nuclear industry requirements.

Why is an integrated QMS critical to long-term success in nuclear energy?

When an integrated QMS is implemented at a nuclear site, all aspects of the facility’s operations are considered from initial siting and design through to the manufacturing of nuclear fuel, facility decommissioning and long-term waste management. These critical aspects are all considered and planned for at the outset, and are updated or enhanced through the site’s lifecycle. The integrated QMS provides verifiable proof that processes and behaviors have been established and are followed, ensuring a nuclear utility will operate to the highest standards of safety and reliability.   

Which standards apply in an integrated quality management system and what are the benefits? 

A QMS that is founded in a risk-based approach and integrates relevant program themes will not only ensure safe operation of facilities and protection of workers, the community and the environment, it will yield the most economical approach to project delivery—particularly in the highly regulated nuclear industry.

Within the Canadian regulatory framework, both conventional and nuclear quality requirements are explicitly outlined. The nuclear requirements are defined by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and regulatory documents are prepared by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. CSA works with stakeholders including regulators, utilities, vendors and academics to develop and maintain quality standards that support safe and reliable nuclear operations and address emerging areas. CSA standards represent the pool of knowledge and expertise of the nuclear industry, offering robust technical approaches and best practice guidelines. CSA standards that should be incorporated in a QMS include:

CSA N286-12 “Management System Requirements for Nuclear Facilities” – which provides a risk-based approach to facility owners, allowing flexibility within a variety of applications such as research, materials testing, medical uses (i.e., isotopes), electrical power generation and small modular reactors. This standard integrates themes starting with a robust “Nuclear Safety Culture” that then governs the overriding behaviours surrounding health, safety, environment, security, economics and quality.

CSA N286.7-16 – which addresses quality assurance requirements for software used in design, development, maintenance, modification, safety analysis, scientific and design computer programs that are applicable to high energy reactor plant.

CSA N299 – which provides programmatic requirements for the supply of items and services to the nuclear facility and licensees. A risk-based evaluation is performed to determine the level of the quality requirements of the work being undertaken. That is, a scoring system (per item and/or service) based on a series of simple questions can yield a QA level from 1 to 4, with 1 being the most stringent and 4 being the least stringent (very similar to ISO-9001). Suppliers are audited to determine the QA level they are qualified to deliver to the industry.

ISO 9001:2015 – which aims to provide a practical and workable QMS for improving and monitoring all areas of the business. This standard can help the organization increase efficiency, productivity, profit, and achieve improved customer retention and acquisition.

Delivering for the Canadian nuclear industry

We established our AECOM Canada Nuclear Services team (ACNS) to deliver innovative and cost-effective solutions for the Canadian nuclear industry. ACNS’s multi-disciplined teams work collaboratively in offices across Ontario to deliver tried and true engineering performance in all disciplines. We offer specialized procurement of items and services to the highest quality standards required by the industry, and are pioneering state-of-the-art solutions for emerging technology, namely Small Modular Reactors, facility decommissioning, and the long-term nuclear waste management program applied on Canada’s Deep Geological Repository.

As leaders in the nuclear services sector, we have developed a QMS that governs the oversight, audits, design and delivery of all projects servicing the nuclear industry. It is a risk-based approach that satisfies applicable industry requirements and certifications, and incorporates various delivery mechanisms to provide flexibility on specific client and contractual requirements.

An integrated QMS approach can be a key differentiator in achieving exceptional performance in the nuclear economy. When nuclear professionals thoughtfully apply these standards within our integrated QMS framework, we can carve away the unnecessary and deliver the appropriate quality requirements for the project with the highest level of efficiency. With this approach, we continue to be regarded as industry leaders and trusted advisors in all areas of the nuclear market.

Originally published Jun 2, 2022

Author: Karen Zhao, ASQ CQA, CQE, CSSBB