Goodnight Consulting’s most recent Nuclear Newsletter included some interesting information related to BWRs and PWRs. In particular, the newsletter provides information related to Top Performing plants, and the ratios of PWRs to BWRs relative to being a Top Performer (on pages 3 & 4). A link to the newsletter is provided here.
Many Different Factors Drive Performance | Management Approaches More Important Than NSSS Type
We would caution anyone from interpreting the performance of one technology over another (PWRs over BWRs, or vice versa) due to their share of the plants in the Top Performer category. The real drivers behind better performance are the approaches taken by the owner/operator organizations. This is borne out in their staffing approaches (see the information relative to “Tip of the Spear Staffing on pages 3 & 4), their internal culture, their leadership, capital investment, and their approach to overall asset management. There are indeed top performing BWRs, as well as Underperforming PWRs. This is not a reflection of the plant designs, as is evidenced by one US fleet that has both BWR and PWR top performers, and another fleet that has both BWR and PWR Underperformers.
Many Different Factors Drive Performance | Costs Are Another Key Driver
Another important performance factor is costs. As labor makes up about 75% on non-fuel O&M costs at US nuclear plants, the staffing approaches taken will have a significant impact on total life cycle costs. The table on page 5 of the attached newsletter shows current staffing levels for BWRs to be lower than for PWRs, both for average staffing and for average staff/MWe. This translates directly into lower non-fuel O&M costs.
Many Different Factors Drive Performance | Many Factors Drive Success
In summary, the commercial US nuclear industry is complex. Its operating organizations take different approaches to operations, staffing, O&M budgets, capital reinvestment, leadership, organizational design, and organizational culture. It is the combination of these approaches that drives the outcomes of high performance. Clearly, BWR plants have performed very well, and continue to do so, with the right combination of approaches from their owner/operators. Less than optimal performance has not been due to the technology or plant design. The very same thing can be said of PWRs.