Managing a team that’s working to complete nearly nine thousand tasks in a little more than 20 days may seem daunting; but, the teamwork and satisfaction created from completing a teeming outage schedule is what makes being a shift outage manager worthwhile.
In 2018, Duke Energy’s six nuclear stations will complete eight refueling outages. Each refueling outage, which lasts several weeks, provides the station an opportunity to refuel one-third of a nuclear reactor and complete maintenance activities that support station longevity.
When an outage occurs, the station supplements staffing to support the outage schedule – outage command centers (OCC) are the common hub for outage activity, providing 24/7 coverage from each organization, including operations, engineering, maintenance, radiation protection, chemistry and reactor services, to name a few.
At the helm of the OCC is the shift outage manager, who works a 12-hour shift to ensure each organization honors the outage’s complex schedule and critical path activities that include defueling and refueling the reactor core and associated major projects.
Amanda Breland, Oconee Nuclear Station’s health and safety manager, has supported the shift outage manager role at Oconee for more than five years.
“It’s a great opportunity for growth,” Breland said of her outage position. “Consider it as a developmental assignment. It strengthens your verbal and written interactions with teammates, including senior site and fleet personnel.”
There are several shift outage managers who support the 24/7 coverage of an outage, and they are responsible for tracking all the moving pieces at warp speed.
“The shift outage manager knows exactly where we are in the schedule at any given time,” Breland said. “But, there is more to it than understanding the schedule – we’re bringing groups together and making sure we’re all on the same page. We’re making sure there’s cross-communications between groups. We’re expanding teams when it’s needed.
“We also conduct alignment meetings and daily status meetings for a larger audience,” she said. “And, yes, I still get anxious every time I support this role. I learn things that I never knew before. I’m always looking for feedback on how to do my job better.”
Juggling her outage job and her full-time job as health and safety manager is another balancing act for Breland.
“Safety is an ‘every minute of every day’ aspect. A safety condition can change in seconds – it’s a never-ending challenge that each of us must focus on for every task,” she said. “But, managing both the safety role and the outage role has benefits – in the OCC, we’re one step ahead – we know exactly what’s going on in the field. I know the safety trends that are occurring, and I know the managers who provide oversight.
“Being the shift outage manager really strengthens the relationship between our health and safety team and all other teams on-site.”
One crucial aspect of the OCC is the necessary teambuilding that occurs.
“We’re together all the time for at least a month, sometimes every day,” Breland said. “Our goal is to return the unit back online safely and efficiently, with quality, and without an injury or event; we’re a team – it’s always professional and always like family. We create a bond in the OCC that is a rare thing.”
Of her time spent in the OCC, Breland still enjoys the work. While it’s intense at times, the results and accomplishments day-to-day are always evident.
Amanda Breland has been with Duke Energy’s Oconee Nuclear Station for 19 years, performing various roles within the chemistry and performance improvement organizations. She has served as Oconee’s health and safety manager since 2015. A Clemson University chemical engineering graduate, Breland lives in Seneca, S.C., with her husband, Bobby. She has two children, Rob and Kathryn.