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Organizational Cultural Basis for Successful Performance in Nuclear Power Plants (I22004)

CRP at a Glance

The international nuclear community has identified the need for a strong safety culture as a necessary and significant characteristic for any nuclear facility. There is also the need to understand how the culture of an organization can influence safety culture. Therefore, the scientific and research basis for what organizational culture is, how it influences safety culture and how both organizational and safety culture impact performance in a nuclear power plant is needed. Member States could benefit greatly from research in the area of organizational culture as the basis from which all performance in an organization, including safety, is influenced. This CRP will address key areas such as the validity and use of the current frameworks for understanding organizational culture and its influence on safety culture, the external influences on organizational culture that can create a compliance mind set and impact performance, and the elements of leadership and management in a high risk organization that are unique and must be managed to ensure the right performance. The results of this CRP will be published as a Nuclear Energy Series report.


A number of recommendations were identified during the IEM5 on Human and Organizational Factors in Nuclear Safety in the Light of the Accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant that related to additional guidance and research to help support and assist Member States in strengthening human and organizational factors in nuclear safety. In addition, After the work and analysis conducted by the IAEA for its report on the Fukushima Accident (2015), the Director General stated one of the major contributors to the accident was human and organizational factors. Efforts that are ongoing with respect to human and organizational factors in the IAEA, would be supported and strengthened by the research outcomes of this CRP. Recommendations identified in the Fukushima Report specifically with respect to human and organizational factors are directly related to the topic of this CRP.
While research in the area of organizational culture is evident and many aspects of organizational culture have been identified, this CRP will cover elements that are believed to be important for the Member States with respect to their specificity to nuclear performance. Initial research topics that have been identified to be the most significant for this CRP include:

- The unique role of leadership and management in managing high risk organizations.
- An analysis of the use of the existing frameworks for safety culture to date; do the frameworks also encompass the more complex view of safety?
- The role of external influences, specifically the regulator, on organizational culture and the consequences of the paradox of combining compliance and innovation on performance.
- The less mechanistic and more dynamic process of managing change through values and norms to ensure long term and sustainable results.

It is anticipated that the main beneficiaries of this CRP will be all types of organizations in the worldwide nuclear community. The outcomes of the CRP will facilitate discovery and understanding of the underlying cultural influences for successful performance. This understanding will support sustained change for improved performance. Additional beneficiaries will be the participating organizations and individuals through knowledge exchange and the networking of experts. Some results of the research will be equally useful for other high risk, non-nuclear organizations.
The IAEA will act as a coordinator for this research to bring together diverse organizations worldwide to address key scientific and technical challenges in an emerging domain relevant to the international nuclear community as evidenced by recent industry events.

CRP Overall Objective

The overall objective of the CRP is to coordinate the most current and ‘state of the art’ research that examines the underlying organizational cultural basis for successful performance, including safety performance, in nuclear (and other) facilities.

E. Schein’s Metaphor of Culture

Specific research objectives

1. Determine the validity of the existing frameworks of safety culture to understand the organizational cultural basis of safety performance.
2. Determine the impact of external influences, primarily the regulatory body, on the organizational basis of performance.
3. Determine how the role of senior managers in a high risk organization is influenced by the unique organizational cultural aspects of such organizations.
4. Identify the ways that change can be managed through the organizational cultural basis of the organization.
4.1 The role of innovation for managing change in the high risk organization needs to be evaluated against the need for routinization of behaviour and process.
4.2 A culture of trust allows an organization to engage in so-called interpersonal risk taking. Research is needed to examine the ways that trust is and can become an element of the organizational cultural basis to ensure an effective change management.
4.3 Learning is the organizational cultural element that will require change in the organization. The role of learning in managing that change needs to be researched.

Expected research outputs

- A scientific basis for the validity and usefulness of the harmonization framework for safety culture being developed by the IAEA.
- More effective regulatory recommendations for supporting organizational behaviours that can facilitate adaptability, flexibility and resilience.
- Ways to provide senior managers with a better understanding of the unique aspects of the organizational cultural basis for successful performance and how to ensure their presence in their organization.
- The way to integrate managing change through a dynamic process that works through the values and norms of the organization to ensure sustainable improvements.

How to join the CRP?

Please submit your Proposal for Research Contract or Agreement directly to the IAEA’s Research Contracts Administration Section, using the form templates (http://cra.iaea.org/cra/forms.html) on the CRA web site (preferably via email): research.contracts@iaea.org