Nuclear safety is a never ending quest for improvement, and one of the more prominent IAEA efforts that helps countries achieve higher levels of safety is the Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) programme.
In OSART missions, the IAEA coordinates internationally-based teams of experts who conduct reviews of operational safety performance at nuclear power plants. The reach of OSART is expansive: to date, OSARTs have visited nearly every major type of nuclear reactor, and over 150 reviews have been conducted since the programme´s inception in 1982.
The OSART review is a process that begins with a request from a country for a safety review, and can occur in three stages. Pre-OSART missions are conducted during the construction and commissioning phase of a plant´s life. These missions help ensure effective preparations for commissioning and operations.
Safety review missions consist of a regular OSART mission, offering an in-depth examination of design features most closely related to safe and reliable operation. Human performance issues and recognized design weaknesses are assessed in an integrated way. These regular OSART missions are concluded by follow-up visits, which take place approximately 12-18 months after an OSART mission.
The follow-up provides an independent assessment of progress in the resolution of issues identified in the OSART mission. Once the IAEA receives the review request, it begins to assemble a team of 10-12 experts to undertake the mission. The team is comprised of specialists from around the globe who have senior-level nuclear operator experience, and each team member is assigned an area of focus during the mission.
The bulk of the work for a regular OSART is carried out during an intense three weeks of inspections at the plant, whereby OSART mission staff conduct interviews with plant staff, observe plant workers, and analyze documents related to plant operation.
Rather than examining the plant´s physical design, OSART team members are tasked with studying the operation of the plant and the performance of the plant´s management and staff. OSART focuses more on the human aspect of a nuclear plant rather than the technology behind its operation.
The OSART team keeps in constant communication with the plant hosts and records all its findings during its time at the plant, and the emphasis is always placed on improving safety to the highest international standard possible. OSART reviews are based wholly upon IAEA Safety Standards, which are established to give guidance to Member States on the many aspects of the safety of nuclear installations.
This is an excerpt from an IAEA Bulletin article, The Peer View, by Dana Sacchetti.