Operators' orientations to procedure guidance in NPP process control

Leena Norros (Corresponding Author), Marja Liinasuo, Paula Savioja

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)


    Resilience in nuclear power plant (NPP) process control depends, among other things, on balance between operators' autonomy in online decisions and pre-defined guidance for operations. Striking balance between these inherent demands of process control belongs to the strategic decisions by the management, but finally balancing takes place at the sharp end, by the operating personnel. We studied operators' basic assumptions about the role of operating procedures in action. Conceptions of 62 control room operators at two Finnish NPPs were queried. Answers were classified into theory-based categories, i.e., interpretative, confirmative or reactive orientations. Orientation is an epistemic attitude to work that influences the process and content of sense making in situations that require action. In both NPPs, the confirmative orientation, emphasising the importance of acting according to rules, prevails, which corresponds to the expectations set by the organisations. It was also found that orientations reflect the operator roles and their demands: Among turbine operators, the interpretative orientation is significantly more prevalent than among the reactor operators as regards control of action. All operators consider interpretative orientation as a characteristic of a ''good operator''. It is concluded that interpretative orientation represents an epistemic attitude to NPP operator work, in which autonomy based on operators' professional competence and procedure usage is not seen opposite to each other, but intertwined into a practice. Identification interpretativeness as an epistemic attitude relevant in action extends the notion of ''intelligent use of procedures'' proposed earlier, by elaborating the inherent logic and ethos of operators' procedure usage. It is recommended that appropriation of interpretative orientation should be actively supported as a means to facilitate resilience in NPP activity.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)487-499
    Number of pages13
    JournalCognition, Technology and Work
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2014
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • Resilience
    • procedure guidance
    • autonomy
    • orientation
    • sense making
    • NPP operators


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