What It Means to Take Nuclear Safety Home With You

Each and every one of us working in the nuclear industry shares responsibility for ensuring we go home to our families each day. We achieve this by following procedures and embracing the “nuclear safety culture.” This unique mindset keeps us safe at work, but what about at home? According to the National Safety Council, one out of 29 people in the United States is disabled one full day or more by unintentional injuries received in the home. What would it look like to take nuclear safety home to prevent injuries and accidents?

home-cautionWhile some safety behaviors may already be a habit, consider being more proactive in using safety principles outside work. When you arrive home today, take a minute to consider the hazards around your house. Think about what you see in the the garage and when you walk inside. Be sure to address slip, trip or fall hazards such as food on the floor, an open cabinet or a shovel in the yard. Identify risks such as electrical cords or sharp objects left on the counter.

home_safety-300x213Remember to consider nuclear safety when working on home projects. Assess the project in advance, understand the work, recognize hazards and mitigate risks. In addition, determine if you and your family members are using the right tools and wearing necessary protective gear. At nuclear plants, we place a priority on such measures to stay safe. Protecting eyes and ears and preventing burns, cuts or injuries applies just as much when mowing the yard, cooking dinner or cleaning the bathroom.

lawn-mower-safetyThere are many nuclear safety resources to use in our daily lives. The Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), an industry association dedicated to promoting safety and excellence in nuclear operations, established Traits of a Healthy Nuclear Safety Culture which are an industry tool and can apply at home.

Questioning Attitude – We are safe and comfortable at home and chores become routine. Be sure to avoid complacency and continue to evaluate processes and ask questions even when taking out the trash or unloading dishes.

Problem Identification and Resolution – Make sure safety issues are promptly identified and addressed. If your outside deck has a loose step or missing handrail, understand the risk and make repairs quickly.

standing-on-chair1Another opportunity for keeping friends and family safe is through peer coaching which is a way to look out for each other by offering feedback and guidance. If your spouse is standing on an unstable chair to reach a cabinet, stop them and help locate a sturdy step ladder while explaining proper equipment mitigates a fall. Or if a neighbor is carrying a heavy load, offer to assist by pointing out it is a two-person job and will prevent a back injury. When neighbors speed by, remind them maintaining a safe speed keeps everyone safe. If feedback is not always appreciated, let them know you are speaking up because you care.

If you take nuclear safety home, you set the example for your family, friends and neighbors. Take personal responsibility and consider how you can promote a culture of safety for your loved ones to maintain a safe, healthy and injury-free home.

Nuclear embraces robotic technology

The nuclear industry is always searching for even safer and more efficient technologies. One such trend is the use of robotics at plant sites. Robots are used across the Duke Energy nuclear fleet as way to strengthen personal and operational safety.

RNP RobotsThe robots, however, may not look like what you imagine. Many are repurposed designs originally intended for use in war zones to search for explosive devices. They are nimble, agile, equipped with track tires that allow them to easily navigate any terrain on site and give them the appearance of miniaturized tanks with arms. The robots are equipped with several cameras allowing for multiple viewpoints.

A cultural cornerstone of the nuclear industry is strictly limiting the amount of radiological exposure nuclear workers encounter while performing work. While all radiological exposure at a nuclear facility is closely monitored and tracked, both in the short term (a single work project) and long term (over the entire career of the worker), the industry’s approach to radiation reduction is that any tool or technology that prevents worker exposure should be used. Nuclear workers could safely perform tasks without the assistance of robots, but using robots reduces or even fully eliminates exposure for many tasks.

Robots offer a number of creative solutions for limiting exposure from remote viewing of radiological areas within the plant to collecting and storing radioactive materials.

Recently, workers at Duke Energy’s McGuire Nuclear Station, located north of Charlotte,robot N.C., utilized the iRobot 710 Warrior robot (710) to lower collective radiological exposure of workers during the replacement of radioactive waste filters. These filters act in a similar fashion to your home HVAC filters, and like those filters, need to be changed on a regular basis.

Previously, removing the filters required professionals using a six-foot pole to grasp the filters and move them into temporary storage prior to transport. The same process was used for installing new filters. As you can image, using a six-foot pole to do precise work can be very challenging.

In other cases, robots simply make the work more efficient. At the Robinson Nuclear Plant, in Hartsville, S.C., robots were used to place material into storage. In order to complete this task without the assistance of robots, an enormous amount of planning and preparation would have to be performed, including the placement of barriers and other safeguards to reduce radiation exposure. By using the robots, workers were able to eliminate exposure and work more safely and efficiently.

These are just a couple of the instances, in which robots are being used throughout the Duke Energy fleet for maintenance, examination and worker protection. Robots reduce the risk of human error, providing for consistent, high-quality results. We expect the application of robots at nuclear sites will only continue to increase, as we continue to find new and innovative ways to make work safer and more efficient.

Duke Energy Invention Convention

The Upstate of South Carolina was hopping with future inventors at the recent Duke Energy Invention Convention held at the TD Convention Center in Greenville, S.C. According to organizers, the objective of the Invention Convention is to challenge the imagination, innovation and creativity of students in the development of solutions to everyday issues. More than 1,800 fourth- through eighth-grade students from upstate schools, as well as homeschool organizations participated in this year’s event by thinking of, creating and showcasing an original invention. Those inventions were then judged by a panel of nearly 100 judges, some of which were Oconee Nuclear Station teammates. Winners in each category received recognition and various prizes including gift cards, iPad mini’s and tickets to sporting events. There were five categories an invention could place in, including “Most Energy Efficient.”

Mikayla Kreuzberger, with the World of Energy demonstrates the Van De Graaff generator to a student at the Duke Energy Invention Convention

Mikayla Kreuzberger, with the World of Energy demonstrates the Van de Graaff generator to a student at the Duke Energy Invention Convention

Duke Energy became the signature sponsor of the Invention Convention in 2013 because of the event’s primary focus – to get school children involved in science and math in a creative manner. As part of the activities, staff from the World of Energy, the education center at the Oconee Nuclear Station, set up an interactive booth for students to explore on their visit to the Invention Convention. They learned about conducting electricity by placing their hands on the Van de Graaff generator, which was a hair-raising experience, and they were also able to see a replica of a nuclear fuel pellet.

Planning is already underway for next year’s event, with ideas to increase participation and educational opportunities. Duke Energy will again sponsor and play a part in next year’s event. For more information on the Duke Energy Invention Convention, go to www.icupstate.com.