Strengthening Management Systems and Coordinating Support to Countries Introducing Nuclear Power Highlighted at Regulatory Cooperation Forum

Ensuring that nuclear power plant operators have robust management systems covering all aspects of their operations is a key step in enhancing nuclear safety, heard attendees of the sixth plenary meeting of the Regulatory Cooperation Forum, held today on the margins of the IAEA 59th General Conference.

“As regulators we should have been the forebears of an integrated management system, and unfortunately we are lagging behind,” said Bismark Tyobeka, Head of the South African Regulatory Authority and Chair of the session.

What is required is a fully integrated workflow system involving all aspects of the regulator’s  operations, with decision-making processes clearly mapped out and responsibility assigned at different levels, said Hans Wanner, Director General of Switzerland’s Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate. It is particularly important to get this right in countries that are new to nuclear power. “Transforming a management system is not easy, as work habits are difficult to change, cultural and social factors also play a role, hence the sooner you introduce new procedures for management style and work philosophy, the easier it will be to deal with the challenges sooner than later,” he said.

Safety and security considerations need to be at the heart of management information systems. “It is vital that operators and regulatory authorities are well-versed in safety and security procedures, national and international legal requirements for nuclear power programme when introducing an integrated management system,” said said Grzegorz Rzentkowski, Director of Nuclear Installation Safety at the IAEA.

Streamline Assistance

Regulators also discussed the importance of coordinating support to countries that are introducing nuclear power and beefing up their regulators in the process. To address the problem of ‘duplication of support’ the IAEA is building a resource mapping database to track and eventually streamline the support from various sources, including regulators in other countries, as well as the IAEA, said Stewart Magruder, senior nuclear safety officer at the IAEA. “It is important that resources are used judiciously,” he said.

To be introduced in the near future, this database will require cooperation from Member States providing relevant information, Magruder added.

Nuclear Safety and security needs a strong safety culture

Members also discussed ongoing work on strengthening a strong safety culture, which was also one of the conclusions of the IAEA Director General’s Report on the  Fukushima Daiichi Accident, presented during the General Conference to delegates.

Presenting the outcome of the IAEA pilot project introduced in 2011 to embed a safety-first philosophy at the regulator, Mahboob Ali, from the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority said “each country has work ethics that need to be improved in critical areas like the ones we are responsible for, and in Pakistan the step by step approach to introduced relevant guidelines and procedures was done gradually, in a systematic way, which took in account sensitive issues pertaining to the social and cultural ways in my country.”

Regulators have a critical role in ensuring the stringent monitoring and implementation of international safety and security standards, said Tyobeka of South Africa. “Lessons learnt from nuclear and radiological accidents is a key part of the learning process to establish a well-integrated management system with an effective safety culture,” he said in his concluding remarks.

Coordination mechanism to enhance global RCF network

The IAEA supports the Forum by offering administrative, technical and conference services support. Member States who wish to receive regulatory support present the Forum with detailed analysis of their support needs, support gaps and the type of support it currently receives to strengthen nuclear safety. The Forum uses this information to update an action plan designed specifically for each Member State.

Over 70 participants attended this meeting. The Forum currently has 27 members including the IAEA, the European Commission and the Nuclear Energy Agency. of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).