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A special web page that organizes access to all of the online resources relating to a topic, similar to providing a ‘one-stop shop’


Knowledge portals typically provide a single, often personalized interface point for accessing and consolidating information from disparate sources. Knowledge portals can be used to access knowledge repositories and communities of practice. Typical resources that should be accessible via a knowledge portal are information items about places of learning, opportunities for learning and research, experts, meeting opportunities, factual data and informative texts.


A portal is a comprehensive access structure to resources (web ‘super site’) that provides a single, often personalized interface point for accessing and consolidating information from disparate sources. The purpose of a portal is:

  • An integration tool — to provide easy, unified and integrated access to an organization’s own resources;
  • An access tool for other (internal and external) information resources;
  • A communication tool — to enable individuals, teams and ‘communities of practice’ to share and discuss ideas and knowledge.

In and R&D organization a portal offers many advantages:

  • Increases staff productivity (by reducing the time taken to access information and provide it in a more useful form.);
  • Providing management with powerful data management tools (for an effective overview of performance and activities);
  • More effective decision-making (based on access to needed knowledge);
  • Recognition of the value of knowledge (as a key element of human capital with significant commercial value).

For an R&D organization, content for a portal might be organized as shown below in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1. Example portal content for an R&D organization

The IAEA recognize that portals have an important and beneficial function in most nuclear organizations and have produced a guidance document that addresses the main development process [9]. Examples of software tools commonly used to develop portals include:

  • IBM: WebSphere Portal Server (www.ibm.com);
  • Microsoft: Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (www.microsoft.com);
  • Oracle: WebLogic Portal (www.oracle.com);
  • Oracle: WebCenter Suite (www.oracle.com);
  • SAP: SAP NetWeaver Portal (www.sap.com);
  • Sun: Sun Java System Portal Server (www.sun.com);
  • Open Text:Vignette Portal (www.opentext.com);
  • Broadvision: Broadvision Portal (www.broadvision.com).


Purpose of a knowledge portal

Knowledge management encompasses a variety of activities including the support of operations and the effective management of human resources (coaching, mentoring, succession management etc.). However, one of the most important aspects of effective knowledge management is easy access to relevant and useful data, information and knowledge [4]. Role of a knowledge portal is to act as a gateway to users through which they could access all information they need for their activity, safe, secure and in the best quality. Hence, a knowledge portal has three primary purposes:

  1. As an integration tool. This provides easy, unified and integrated access to an organization’s own resources. Most NPPs have existing, but diverse systems for collecting and accessing important information such as plant performance parameters, operating procedures, document management, work control, training and qualification records etc. An effective knowledge portal would provide a single point of access to all of these systems and would be structured in such a way that the location and retrieval of such information would be quick and easy.
  2. As an access tool for other (internal and external) information resources. There are many useful sources of information, beyond their own organization’s resources, which can be made available to staff. In reality, many staff members are unaware of the rich and up to date documents available for their work. This includes, for example: safety standards, guidance documents and reports from IAEA, World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) and regulatory bodies; INIS information; academic courses (distance learning) and libraries; government laboratories and libraries; nuclear industry forums; and training materials — both generic and plant specific. All of these could add to the support knowledge and effec- tiveness of NPP staff.
  3. As a communication tool. This enables individuals, teams and ‘communities of practice (CoP)’ to share and discuss ideas and knowledge. A key aspect of knowledge management is the ability to share and discuss information, giving it context and thus making it knowledge. An effective knowledge portal should therefore facilitate formal and informal communication between individuals, work and project teams and various CoP in real time.

The purpose of the knowledge portal is to provide a structured system for easy, computer based, access to any information (in the form of plant performance and system data, drawings, design descriptions, procedures, guides, reference material, reports, studies, training materials etc.), which can be used by staff to maintain and improve their own, and hence their NPPs, productivity and performance. In addition, the portal should provide access to relevant non-technical information, such as news, email, management and administrative information etc., and should facilitate communication and discussions between individuals and teams (functional, role based and project) for the sharing and growth of corporate knowledge.

Scope of an NPP portal

When addressing the concept of an NPP portal, two main aspects may be considered:

  • Design principles of a knowledge portal. Here the functionalities of the portal are suggested in terms of principles and techniques currently in use, many of which can be found as features of products readily available on the market;
  • Content. Here topics are listed that could become the content to be managed by the portal, again based on the experience of existing portal users.

The following two sections provide more details on the design and content of NPP portals based on what is presently considered good practice. These are not intended to be prescriptive lists. Rather, items of interest should be selected based on the particular needs of the NPP considering the development of a portal. They may also be useful as checklists in order to avoid accidental omission of relevant functionality and/or content [5].

Design principles of a knowledge portal

The aim of this section is to provide general guidelines for the design of portals to support information and knowledge management for NPPs. Each country, nuclear utility and NPP may have a separate set of specific requirements based on global, national and local regulatory requirements, safety standards and specific choices for enterprise data management solutions. For these reasons, it is not possible to prescribe the detailed design for a knowledge portal. The guidance presented in this and in the next section is based on feedback from a multi- national panel of industry experts who have developed, or are in the process of developing, such NPP portals for information and knowledge management.

The design of the portal and the choice of underlying software and hardware tools should support the NPPs’ requirement to build and retrieve knowledge. Data at an NPP come from many systems (e.g. financial, control computers, maintenance, inspection, work orders, chemistry) and in many formats (e.g. on-line, real- time, infrequent). There is benefit in viewing data separately, but it may be more useful if grouped and structured as data with a common purpose, making it ‘information’. Portals have become an industry tool for the display and collection of such data into information. When such data are collected, they can be classified by the addition of metadata to describe the collection of information. For example, the response to an event may be collected and classified and stored to form part of the corporate knowledge. The NPP can learn from such collection of knowledge, which may itself result in changes to the requirements for the data being collected at the station.

While portals may be designed corporately, their functionality should be based on the needs of the NPP, with data management philosophy and tools for the entire life cycle of the NPP. The fundamental functionality should be generic and not specific to any one application or user. Portal utilities, however, should be included to allow some user customization of the layout as well as administration tools, to control access to, and to facilitate the maintenance of the portal by qualified staff. The most effortless retrieval of knowledge would result from automatic self-customization of the portal interface to the individual user; i.e. the functions he or she uses regularly are automatically placed on the portal opening screen. A high-level ‘map’ of the five key design principles of an NPP knowledge portal is provided in Fig. 1. A much more detailed ‘design map’ based on Fig. 1, is provided in Appendix II. of the [9]. The appendix also contains some context to the five key design principles.

FIG. 1. High level map of portal design principles.

Typical content of a NPP portal

As stated above, each utility/NPP will have its own situation and requirements for portal contents based on plant specific needs. However, experience has shown that there are many common requirements for information/knowledge for the efficient operation of NPPs of different designs and in different countries. Figure 2 provides a high level ‘map’ of content requirements for a knowledge portal. Once again, this list of contents is not meant to be prescriptive, but much of this content is common to existing systems and is intended to provide suggestions to developers. The portal certainly contains most or all elements described in the configuration management [6]. Again, a more detailed breakdown of this ‘content map’ is provided in Appendix III of [9], also with some contextual guidance.

FIG. 2. Main categories of portal content.

Good practices for implementation

Guidelines can be provided for ‘good practices’ for:

• Developing the portal in phases: concept, design, development, field trial and implementation;

• A field trial, involving the development of a portal based on requirements and refined by testing and improvement with candidate group prior to partial or full release — is important;

• Preparing design requirements for portal from dialogue with customers and users prior to development of the portal;

• Developing and testing the portal against these design requirements;

• Developing a general portal that has functionality required for one group, while at the same time knowing that the portal will need to be applied to many groups without specializing too early;

• Openly discussing the development of the portal – rationale, background, schedule etc.;

• Providing training for all staff;

• Publishing a portal description;

• Setting up a knowledge map prior to design;

• Developing the portal using a team rather than an individual.


[1] INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY, Knowledge Management for Nuclear Industry Operating Organizations, IAEA-TECDOC-1510, IAEA, Vienna (2006).

[2] INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY, The Nuclear Power Industry’s Ageing Workforce: Transfer of Knowledge to the Next Generation, IAEA-TECDOC-1399, IAEA, Vienna (2004).

[3] INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY, Risk Management of Knowledge Loss in Nuclear Industry Organizations, IAEA, Vienna (2006).

[4] INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY, Application of the Management System for Facilities and Activ- ities, IAEA Safety Standards Series No. GS-G-3.1, IAEA, Vienna (2006).

[5] NUCLEAR ENERGY INSTITUTE, NEI Industry Wide Process Description SS003, Information Management Process Description and Guidelines, Rep. NEI AP-907, Rev.1, NEI (2003).

[6] INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY, Configuration Management in Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA- TECDOC-1335, IAEA, Vienna (2003).

[7] INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY, IAEA Safety Glossary. Terminology used in Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection, IAEA, Vienna (2007).

[8] INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY, OSART Guidelines 1994 Edition, IAEA-TECDOC-744, IAEA, Vienna (1994)

[9] INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY, Development of Knowledge Portals for Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA Nuclear Energy Series, No. NG-T-6.2, IAEA, Vienna (2009).

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