Managing U.S. Nuclear Fuel Risks
In the highly complex field of nuclear energy, Timothy Fischer makes his work as chief risk officer at BWX Technologies appear simple.
For years, BWXT’s board sought an enterprise risk management program, but efforts always fizzled. Then the Lynchburg, Va.-based nuclear business was spun off from Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) in June 2015, and the new executive team seized the moment to finally get their plan.
Fischer, former director of insurance at B&W, helped separate the insurance portfolio during the spin-off (which won him Risk All Star recognition last year) and was tapped for the job.
Swiftly crafting a comprehensive ERM program puts Fischer back on the 2016 Risk All Stars list.
The former U.S. Navy officer knew if he was going to succeed, he needed a standout team to help draft the plan. Then he’d need to educate the entire company about its intricate details.
He first recruited the CEO to chair the group and help select about 15 senior leaders across the organization to develop a risk registry.
“Following the spin-off, Tim commissioned a new BWXT executive risk committee and assigned ‘risk ownership’ throughout the organization resulting in accountable leaders standing shoulder-to-shoulder throughout our operations and functional areas with a renewed focus on risk management,” said James Canafax, chief compliance officer at BWXT.
“Our business is super unique. We have one customer, one product surrounding that, so it’s a different business than a lot of other companies out there.” — Timothy Fischer, chief risk officer, BWX Technologies
Fischer made sure everyone focused on the same issues. He developed rating guides in order to minimize subjectivity during risk assessments.
“Importantly, Tim led a re-education of those resources, driving a common language and uniform risk-ranking methodologies to ensure BWXT shares a consistent understanding across the enterprise with respect to inherent risks, emerging risks, risk appetite and risk tolerances.”
BWXT, which handles highly enriched nuclear material, was already extremely good at risk management, Fisher said. That poses a challenge, however, if employees get complacent when risks are so well mitigated, he said. The severity of an accident is so monumental that controls must be in place to mitigate risk to an almost negligible likelihood.
“Our business is super unique,” Fischer said. “We have one customer, one product surrounding that, so it’s a different business than a lot of other companies out there.”
Fischer delivers a comprehensive yet simple annual risk report and quarterly memos to keep risk top of mind for everyone.
“I got a comment from one colleague who runs an internal audit group. He complimented me on how simple the output looks knowing full well there’s tons and tons of detail work behind it,” said Fischer, who worked with Marsh prior to joining B&W.
“As a former U.S. naval officer who has not only served our country but has done so on a submarine powered by BWXT-manufactured equipment, combined with the nuclear insurance experience … Tim brings a unique and disciplined skill set that makes him well-suited to lead BWXT’s risk management practices,” Canafax said. &