South Africa is the only country on the African continent that uses nuclear energy to generate electricity. The Koeberg Nuclear Power Station (Koeberg) that ensures a reliable supply of electricity to the Western Cape has operated safely for more than 25 years having a further active life of 30 - 40 years. The station’s two reactors supply 1 800MW of South Africa's electricity; it is therefore imperative, now more than ever, that modifications implemented on the plant are in line with quality standards.
The nuclear industry is one where stringent controls are put in place to ensure that electricity is produced in a safe and reliable manner. It is expected that a nuclear power plant is operated safely, adheres to processes and procedures that governs those safe operations and implements projects or modifications that are of a high quality; and this is considered business as usual. This is crucial for an industry that is under constant scrutiny with every project implemented or modification done being judged critically. It therefore leads the industry to be viewed as very unforgiving one. Devastating past nuclear events have made the rules to become even more rigorous and with South Africa embarking on nuclear new build, Koeberg has to prove that they can implement modifications and projects of a high quality for nuclear to remain a viable option in South Africa. Koeberg therefore needs to be leaping and not limping into the nuclear future as the country, public and economy depends on it.
One important contributing factor to the successful operation of this plant is the implementation of projects and modifications in accordance with the respective nuclear codes and standards, specifications, processes and procedures. The industry demands that this be a norm as quality is synonymous with safety and reliability; factors that cannot be compromised or divorced from each other on a nuclear power plant (NPP). Recently, however, there has been great concern relating to non-conformances experienced throughout the project life cycle which ultimately affects the quality of modifications and projects implemented on the plant.
Project quality is one aspect for which trade-offs are constantly made, making adherence to project quality a continuing concern. It has been observed that projects of poor quality can have far reaching consequences especially when quality is treated like a stepchild of project success, where project managers adhere more to time and cost rather than quality. Literature suggests that there is never time to do the right thing the first time, but there is always time to do it over. Pg. 1 done
The Nuclear Project Management Department (NPM) that has been tasked with implementing modifications and projects at Koeberg and as such they are the subject of this research. To this end, the mandate of NPM is to develop, manage, execute and monitor projects on behalf of Koeberg in accordance with its management processes regarding time, budget, scope, quality, safety, health and environment. They are also the custodian of the Koeberg Technical Plan. NPM has the responsibilities to:
Provide project management services for the projects and modifications;
Develop and maintain standards for nuclear projects;
Minimise outage duration through optimised project plans and production planning, this includes close interfaces with Plant Management and in particular, Outage Management;
Develop and manage operational, strategic engineering, safety and long term asset management projects for Koeberg. The term "develop" implies that the client/project requestor has a clear problem statement or need (acceptance criteria) and participates through the assignment of key staff in the development of this need into a project concept and scope. The term "manage" implies that on receipt or approval of an approved technical requirement specification, NPM is the responsible lead for implementation;
Manage the medium term Koeberg Technical Plan (inputs complied by Nuclear and Plant Engineering, moderation and acceptance by Koeberg, included is the integration with the Life of Plant Plan (LOPP);
Manage project engineering and specialist services or subject matter experts seconded from Engineering or other departments;
Provide the function of strategic and detailed planning, scheduling and control of all modifications and projects within the department as well as interfacing with Koeberg, Finance and Commercial departments, to agreed milestones;
Provide the function of project management, quality control and quality assurance of the project life cycle;
Manage the training and development of project managers for nuclear projects;
Support the Nuclear Centre of Excellence (CoE) to develop the project execution plan for the client office. This includes scoping, planning, costing and execution of owner’s scope,
Monitor and report on configuration control for project document changes
Establish links with Eskom CoE for Project Management and
Conduct project review readiness assessment for nuclear projects. Pg. 2 done
The research addressed the benefits of consistently implementing quality modifications and projects at Koeberg and the detriments of a lack thereof. NPM will benefit from the research in the following ways:
Areas for improvement, as it relates to project quality throughout the project lifecycle, will be identified;
Effective areas in the project lifecycle will highlighted;
The importance of effectively and consistently using clearly defined processes in the implementation of quality in projects will be highlighted;
The research will highlight ways in which confidence from the plant, stakeholders, sponsors and regulatory bodies can be reinforced and maintained.
Statement of the research problem
Against the above background the research problem that was researched within the ambit of this dissertation read as follows: "the erosion of project quality and the inconsistencies in delivering quality projects have an adverse effect on modifications and projects implemented on the nuclear power plant in South Africa"
Background to the research problem – recheck the correct background
Like many other nuclear power plants around the world, the KNPS has confidently demonstrated, to the satisfaction of the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR), that it can be operated safely and efficiently for a much longer period than was envisioned when it was first designed. From plant life extension studies currently being performed, KNPS’s life can be extended from 40 to 60 years. This, of course means that major components will have to be replaced (some of which will be world firsts) rather than maintained and as such extra care needs to be taken when introducing these major changes to the plant with the implementation of quality modifications and projects.
The KNPS, while demonstrating its ability to operate safely and efficiently, is however struggling with project quality and this is evident with the modifications and projects that have been introduced to the plant in recent years. There has been a decline in the quality of modifications and projects implemented on the plant and contributing factors are evident throughout the project life cycle. These quality issues result in re-work, longer outages, undue pressure on the national grid, which in turn, leads to a loss of power to customers and loss of revenue to the organisation. Evidence of this quality decline is recent findings where the plant achieved an unhealthy appraisal with regards to the quality of modifications and projects implemented. This pattern cannot be entertained if KNPS is to meet the organisation and stakeholders’ goals and objectives of implementing modifications of a high quality on the plant. Pg. 3 done
The purpose of this research was to investigate factors that impact project quality throughout the project lifecycle; making recommendations on how negative factors can be eliminated while positive ones can be reinforced in support of better performance of the NPM organisation. The research was conducted within the NPM and those departments that have an input into its processes and outputs. NPM consists of the following sections:
Project Execution (Operational)
Monitoring and Support
Project Management Client Office
Departments having a direct impact on NPM include:
Engineering (Plant Engineering and Nuclear Engineering)
Procurement (Project Sourcing and Project Quality Engineering)
Quality Assurance / Quality Control
Hypothesis or research question
The question that drove this research may be succinctly stated as follows:
"What are the factors that affect project quality either negatively or positively and what in the project environment allows these to persist?"
Investigative sub- questions
The investigative sub-questions that were researched in support of the research question read as follows:
Do management and project teams understand their role to ensure project quality?
Are stakeholders actively involved in the project lifecycle to ensure project quality?
Are processes and procedures being applied effectively to ensure project quality?
How well do suppliers interpret project quality requirements?
Why are projects, even if completed on time and within budget, lacking quality?
Is the plant in a healthier state after modifications have been introduced to it?
Which gaps need to be bridged so project quality is continually implemented?
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Objectives of the research
The following research objectives were considered in this research:
To investigate the root cause and impact of inconsistent project quality practices
To emphasise the importance of consistent and effective project quality throughout the project lifecycle
To emphasise the role of management, the project team and stakeholders in realising project quality
To recommend measures to be put in place to improve the way in which project quality is conducted throughout the organisation
Delineation of the research
Research constraints (limitations or de-limitations); pertain to any inhibiting factor, which would in any way constrain the researcher’s ability to conduct research in a normal way. According to Collis and Hussey (2003: 128-129), ‘limitations’ identify weaknesses in the research, while ‘de-limitations’ explain how the scope of the study was focused on a particular area, as opposed to a wider or holistic approach. The research constraints were as follows:
Limitations: The focus of the research was on project quality at a nuclear power plant with a specific focus on the project life cycle
De-limitations: The research was confined to the NPM and questionnaires were specific to the relevant stakeholders involved in the project lifecycle.
The constraints that had an impact on this research were:
Availability of the participants as the survey was conducted during an SDO
Accessibility to information / database - sensitivity of information of a NPP
Low response from suppliers to participate due to fear of losing a contract
Significance of the research
All modifications and projects have a significant impact on the plant and its performance so careful consideration is to be given to project quality. The research will compel NPM to look at project quality through fresh eyes, and by so doing, improve its service to the plant, relationships with internal and external stakeholders and honour its mandate by consistently implementing quality modifications and projects; perhaps become a benchmark for the nuclear fraternity. The departments that have a direct impact on outputs can ascertain where they are able to improve the way in which they do business with NPM relative to project quality and suppliers can better understand the vital role that they play in the deliverable and feel valued as partners in ensuring project quality on the NPP.
Expected outcomes, results and contribution of the research
According to Leedy and Ormrod (2001:62-63), assumptions are what the researcher takes for granted, something which is may cause misunderstanding. "What we may tacitly assume, others may have never considered. If we act on our assumptions, and in the final result such actions make a big difference in the outcome, we may face a situation we are totally unprepared to accept. In research, we try to leave nothing to chance on the hope of preventing misunderstandings." For the purpose of this research, the following outcomes are envisaged:
All involved in the project lifecycle will apply themselves in ensuring that proactive and effective project quality is pivotal to the delivery of projects on the plant;
Improved project quality and ensured continuity and consistence;
Increased confidence from the stakeholders, sponsors, regulatory bodies;
The researcher will benefit by obtaining a degree at the end of the research.
Summary – write a summary about this chapter
Today, project quality is more important than ever and even more so in the nuclear industry where the lack of project quality can have dire consequences. It appears that the need to maintain quality as an integral part of any modification and project implemented on the plant is well recognised, however achieving appropriate results may not be as well deployed throughout the project lifecycle. So while it is generally easier to blame those responsible for introducing changes to the plant and certain processes for project quality deficiencies, it is rather that quality should be considered in various areas and is lacking throughout the project life cycle especially when production and time pressure takes preference opening the door to short-cuts and cowboy tactics. Pg. 6 done