Destigmatizing Decommissioning With Generative Construction Scheduling

Destigmatizing Decommissioning With Generative Construction Const. Executive | Oct 31, 2023

Discover how generative construction scheduling is revolutionizing the decommissioning process in the construction industry. Learn how this innovative technology streamlines project execution, optimizes resource allocation, and ensures compliance with regulations.

Read the article as published on Construction Executive here.

Author: Kevin Fuller, ALICE Technologies


In the construction industry, the projects that typically get most of the limelight are those that stretch dramatically either up or sideways: the 50-story office tower, the light-rail system extension, the new bridge, the expansion of the university campus. Such highly budgeted, highly visible projects capture the attention of both construction professionals and the public. 

But what about the projects that are focused not on construction, but rather on deconstruction?

Deconstruction is focused on taking structures apart, rather than raising them from the ground. It is not nearly as glamorous as construction itself, but deconstruction deserves attention and respect in its own right, particularly considering its potentially dangerous dealings. 

One of the most complex of such projects is the decommissioning of a nuclear power plant. With these decades-long, big-budget projects, structural dismantling is difficult enough, as these facilities are built to withstand intense heat, pressure and radiation. But trickier still is the management of all things radioactive. Anything exposed to radiation during the construction, operation and deconstruction of the plant—from soil to waste to building components—must be remediated. And the treatment of these materials takes time and must be done in a way that meets strict regulatory guidelines. 

Given the difficulty and danger of these projects, contractors leading nuclear decommissioning projects are now turning to some of the new technologies being applied to complex construction projects. 

One of the most innovative is generative construction scheduling. Contractors can use generative construction scheduling to develop, test and refine the detailed, long-term schedules required to execute one of these projects. This AI-powered tool could be utilized to streamline the decommissioning process in one of many ways:

1. Optimized Sequence Planning: Generative scheduling tools use advanced algorithms to analyze project parameters, constraints and objectives. When applied to nuclear power plant decommissioning, a generative scheduling solution could help determine the most efficient sequence for dismantling various structures and systems within the plant. This includes identifying dependencies between tasks and optimizing the order in which they should be executed to minimize downtime.

2. Resource Allocation and Management: Decommissioning a nuclear power plant requires careful resource allocation, including labor, equipment and materials. Generative scheduling tools can assess resource availability and automatically assign them to tasks based on priorities, skill requirements and other factors. These solutions could ensure that critical tasks are adequately staffed, and the right equipment and materials are available when needed, thereby enhancing productivity and reducing project delays.

3. What-If Scenarios: Generative scheduling enables the creation of what-if scenarios that allow project managers to explore different approaches and strategies for decommissioning. This is particularly valuable in a complex project like nuclear power plant decommissioning, where unexpected challenges may arise. By simulating different scenarios and assessing their impact on the schedule, project managers can make informed decisions and proactively adjust their plans to mitigate risks.

4. Constraints and Regulations: Nuclear power plant decommissioning is subject to numerous regulatory and safety constraints. Generative scheduling tools can incorporate these constraints into the scheduling process, ensuring that tasks are sequenced and executed in compliance with relevant regulations. These solutions could provide real-time feedback on whether a proposed schedule violates any constraints, helping project teams make adjustments before implementation.

5. Iterative Refinement: As decommissioning progresses, conditions on the ground may change, and new information may become available. Generative scheduling tools allow for iterative refinement of the schedule based on real-time data. They could continuously adapt the schedule to reflect actual progress, resource availability and any unforeseen challenges, enabling project managers to maintain a dynamic and up-to-date plan.

6. Visualization and Transparent Communication: Generative-scheduling tools can offer visualizations that depict the project schedule in a highly intuitive and understandable manner. This can be especially valuable when communicating the decommissioning plan to stakeholders, regulators and the workforce. Visualizations help stakeholders grasp the project's complexity, milestones and resource allocations, facilitating better communication and alignment among all parties involved. This transparent communication builds trust between the project owner and constituents on a project that is complex, long and potentially risky. 

7. Mitigation of Project Delays: Delays in decommissioning can have far-reaching consequences, affecting costs and public perception. Generative scheduling tools take into account the interdependencies of tasks and potential bottlenecks, enabling project teams to identify and address issues before they escalate, thus maintaining a steady project pace.

8. Real-Time Adaptation: During decommissioning, unforeseen challenges may demand adjustments to the project plan. Generative scheduling solutions offer dynamic scheduling capabilities and allow for real-time adaptation. Whether the builder must account for major weather events or respond to unexpected regulatory changes, they can use generative scheduling tools to tune the construction schedule along the way and keep the project on track.

Given the complexity, cost, duration and risk of a decommissioning project, this is work that deserves the best technology that our industry has to offer. Generative construction scheduling tools exemplify the sophisticated solutions that should be deployed on a project that could last decades and cost billions, and they offer a comprehensive approach to optimizing the process. By leveraging advanced algorithms, resource-management capabilities, what-if scenario simulations and adherence to constraints and regulations, these tools enable efficient and transparent scheduling. And by putting this technology to work, contractors leading decommissioning projects can benefit from improved productivity, reduced risks and enhanced collaboration among all stakeholders.

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