Efrain O’Neill, left, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, who is spending a year working at Sandia, talks energy research with senior manager Tito Bonano. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Retaining knowledge of nuclear waste management

April 7, 2021 9:52 am Published by

Have you ever started a new job and spent a lot of time figuring out everything from how to get paper for the printer to whether an important customer prefers quick phone calls to emails?

In this photo taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic at Sandia National Laboratories’ boiling water reactor test site, Tito Bonano, right, shares his knowledge of nuclear energy research with Efrain O’Neill, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez, who recently spent a year at Sandia. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

Imagine if that important customer was the federal government and the project you were working on was evaluating the development of a geologic repository for the permanent disposal of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

Experts at Sandia National Laboratories just began their second year of a project to capture important, hard-to-explain nuclear waste management knowledge from retirement-age employees to help new employees get up to speed faster.

“At Sandia, we’ve had over 45 years of experience in nuclear waste management in the U.S. and internationally,” said Tito Bonano, nuclear energy fuel cycle senior manager. “But the expertise and experiences of people like myself, Peter Swift, Ken Sorenson and others that have retired or are retirement age, walks away when we leave the organization. We refer to that kind of expertise and experiences as tacit knowledge, and we had to act to stop the bleeding of tacit knowledge.”

Tacit knowledge includes understanding the boss’s opinions as to why a competitor is doing well or the best way to work with an important customer. Such knowledge is often difficult to explain. Explicit knowledge, which includes things such as a phone number or the temperature of water, is easier to document and communicate to others.

Read the complete news release or visit the project page.

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