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Press Release 2011/23

Nuclear Experts Discuss IAEA Operational Safety Reviews

4 November 2011 | Senior nuclear experts today offered several recommendations on how the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) can further develop its operational safety review services. The IAEA hosted a technical meeting on the Evaluation of Effectiveness of Operational Safety Review Services and their Future Evolution at the Agency's headquarters in Vienna from 1 to 4 November 2011.

Representatives from nuclear regulatory bodies, nuclear utilities, nuclear power plants and technical support organisations from 19 IAEA Member States and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) took part in the meeting. It provided a platform for the exchange of information, experience and lessons learned from the operational safety review missions performed during 2008-2011. The meeting also included discussion of expectations for the future evolution of these services.

"This week's meeting demonstrated the response of the IAEA's Member States to the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. Nations must constantly strive to improve their nuclear safety practices, and the IAEA review services provide an excellent tool to assess their progress," said Miroslav Lipar, head of the IAEA's Operational Safety Section.

The IAEA's operational safety review services assess the operational safety performance of nuclear power plants by conducting peer reviews using the requirements of IAEA Safety Standards. The longest running safety review service, the Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) programme, was established in 1982 and has provided advice and assistance to Member States in 165 missions to enhance the safety of nuclear power plants during commissioning and operation. Other review services available in the area of operations evaluate operating experience feedback, safe long-term operation and safety culture.

The IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety1/ includes actions focused towards strengthening the existing IAEA peer reviews by incorporating lessons learned and improving their effectiveness. This week's meeting provided several recommendations to the IAEA on how to modify the scope and methodology of the OSART missions to reflect the lessons learned from this year's accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

The most important recommendation was to introduce Severe Accident Management as a separate review area in the standard OSART scope. The meeting endorsed the integration of the different types of operational safety services under the umbrella of OSART, to improve the effectiveness of using available resources and harmonising the methodology of these services. In addition, several ideas on how to improve the efficiency of OSART missions in identifying safety significant issues were endorsed by the meeting.

The meeting considered that the IAEA operational safety review services, and in particular the OSART programme, were effective in supporting the enhancement of the safety of nuclear power plants during both commissioning and operation. The recommendations and improvements endorsed by the meeting in light of the Fukushima accident and a review of the services are intended to support further enhancement of the safety of nuclear power plants worldwide.

1/ The IAEA Nuclear Safety Action Plan defines a programme of work to strengthen the nuclear safety framework worldwide in the light of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. The plan was unanimously endorsed by IAEA Member States during the Agency's 55th General Conference in September 2011. The Action Plan recommended: "Each Member State with nuclear power plants to voluntarily host at least one IAEA Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) mission during the coming three years, with the initial focus on older nuclear power plants. Thereafter, OSART missions to be voluntarily hosted on a regular basis."