Challenges emerge when one restarts a complicated machine after 22 years lying dormant. These challenges are amplified when one also decides to upgrade the machine in concert with the restart. In this book the complicated machine is a Nuclear Electric Generating Station, and the restart and upgrades budget exceeds 2 Billion dollars over a five year schedule. This project is an opportunity for a Professor on Sabbatical to learn about reactor operations while contributing to the plant recovery and upgrade. This book is taken from his diary.
The perspective of the Professor is not pro or anti-nuclear. His allegiance is to mother nature, and fissioning atoms is just another way to heat water to make steam for a turbine-generator set. His enthusiasm for nuclear power is muted by the reality that many other options exist for making electricity. Alternately, only one energy form as power dense as nuclear fission exists, and it is not yet harnessed, so the real question may be why one would choose to squander fissile fuel for the heating of water to make electricity that us already pretty cheap and abundant. However, the very large scale of a nuclear power generating station, where over a Giga-Watt of electricity may be made by a single unit, is very impressive.
The unfolding of the final six months of the nuclear power station restart is recounted from the experience of the professor, who was integral to the program. There are regulatory challenges, personnel challenges, scheduling challenges, and technical challenges all managed in the crucible of the project's detailed work beak-down structure. Some of the approaches to addressing these challenges are ugly, and may embarrass professional sensibilities, but in the end the power station started, the President of the United States came and congratulated us, and the plant ran reasonably well.
Human beings must execute the elements of the work breakdown structure to make the project a success. Human beings are famously unreliable, and the form of work being undertaken is famously unforgiving. There are many processes and methods employed by the regulator and in project management to overcome the foibles of the human condition, and these are in this book. The overarching message is optimistic, as the outcome was successful, but there are some opportunities for improvement. Ideally one improvement could be in the human condition, through a broader appreciation of consequences for sloppy or irresponsible behavior, leading to better professional discipline. Promoting this ideal is a mission of the book.
The book also casts back into the history of the professor, and into the academic realm from which the professor has temporarily escaped. The position of professor remains a prestigious one, but this prestige will only persist if those in the position set a high standard. Thought leadership is something taken seriously, so some challenges are offered to the institution of University, with hope that a higher standard of care can be achieved for education and for those who hold, develop and transfer knowledge. Marketing of "the brand" using strong association with embedded semi-pro football programs cannot be the mainstay of University identity in a progressive society. Adjustments are needed for Universities to realize their potential to be important motivators of positive change. Universities also can help shape the definition of positive change.
The book also illustrates a modern utility infrastructure, where interests of groups in one part of the organization, like corporate headquarters, can be at cross purposes with others, such as those in operations at a power generating site. The politics are rancorous, and led first to the plant build, and then to the 22 year plant storage, and finally to the decision to restart. Several twists and turns during the Nuclear Power Plant recovery are attributed to the politics of the utility.