Learning from Successes in Nuclear Power Plant Operation: Intermediate Report from the NKS-R LESUN

Kaupo Viitanen, Rossella Bisio, Christer Axelsson, Hanna Koskinen, Marja Liinasuo, Ann Britt Skjerve

    Research output: Book/ReportReport


    Learning from experience is essential to achieve safe and efficient operations at nuclear power plants. In the nuclear industry, licensees are required to collect lessons from unwanted events in order to prevent the recurrence of similar events. This implies focus on learning from failures, which may limit the opportunities of the organisation to develop. Modern safety theories such as Resilience Engineering suggest that also using successes as sources for learning may be beneficial. In this project we elaborate the concept of success in nuclear industry and how it can be utilized for learning purposes. The scope of this intermediate report is to provide insights to how successful actions and decisions can be captured and how learning processes from successes and failures differ from each other. To achieve this we carried out an extensive literature review and two case studies in nuclear power plants. We found that success is a complex and multidimensional concept that can take many forms. We identified three broad categories of success: normal performances, extraordinary performances and recoveries. We also observed that success can have properties such as time and situation-dependence and that it relates to the objective or subjective expectations of multiple stakeholders. Based on our findings we formulated a preliminary framework for capturing successes. We propose that this framework can be useful to identify successful situations for learning purposes. We also found that successes are often less salient and less likely to trigger intentional learning processes than failures. Regardless, we found in our empirical studies that there was clear interest in successes at the power plants: existing methods, albeit not very refined, were already in place that could be utilized to learn from successes more systematically. Further developing these activities is also important in order to avoid unwanted side-products of learning from success such as organisational drift or complacency. In addition, because lessons learned from success are often tacit, exploring the possibilities of developing learning that relates to tacit knowledge may be useful. Operating experience activities have a central role in facilitating the development of these learning activities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationRoskilde
    PublisherNordic Nuclear Safety Research NKS
    Number of pages118
    ISBN (Print)978-87-7893-438-3
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

    Publication series

    SeriesNKS Reports


    • success
    • adaptive performance
    • operating experience
    • organisational learning
    • safety
    • resilience engineering


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