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40 Years of OSART: Improving Nuclear Power Plant Safety Worldwide


This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Operational Safety Review Team (OSART): one of the most important safety peer review services offered by the IAEA to its Member States. The OSART programme aims to help countries strengthen the safety of their nuclear power plants during commissioning and operation by comparing actual practices with the IAEA Safety Standards. Since the first mission to Kori Nuclear Power Plant in the Republic of Korea in August 1983, the IAEA has carried out 218 OSART missions to 37 countries, providing objective and independent assessments of their operational safety performance.

“Through these missions, thousands of experts have supported the continuous safety improvement of nuclear power plants operating across the globe,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in a video message to mark the occasion.

Performed at the request of IAEA Member States, OSART missions are designed to assist nuclear operators in strengthening the operational safety of their plants by identifying areas that should be improved and recommending ways to do so.

During an OSART mission, experts from Member States and the IAEA assess safety performance at the nuclear facility against the IAEA Safety Standards, the internationally accepted standards for nuclear safety, and provide specific recommendations and suggestions for safety improvements. During the mission, the application of these standards in a wide range of areas, including plant management, personnel training and qualification, operations and safety culture are assessed.

OSART missions for operational nuclear power plants can be conducted at any time after a plant begins commercial operation. A follow up visit is usually held about 18 months after the main mission. Pre-OSART missions are conducted during the commissioning phase of a nuclear power plant, normally a few months before the first nuclear fuel is loaded into the nuclear reactor. Complementary to them, Corporate OSART missions are conducted to also review centralized functions of operational safety aspects of nuclear power plants within the fleet, such as corporate management; safety performance monitoring; and oversight, procurement or human resources.

The OSART programme today

OSART missions have contributed to the improvement of nuclear safety worldwide. These safety peer review missions have led to significant improvements in operational safety performance. Recent analysis showed that operators of nuclear facilities act promptly on the findings of OSART missions and that over 95 per cent of the findings are resolved or have achieved satisfactory progress by the time follow-up missions are conducted.

The OSART programme is also constantly evolving to meet the changing needs of the nuclear industry. In recent years, the programme has placed a greater emphasis on areas such as accident management and the interaction between humans, technology and organizations. While human, technological and organizational factors may play a separate and significant role in an operational failure, it is often a combination of these factors that lead to events and accidents.

The programme also emphasizes safety culture, which refers to how an organization’s culture prioritizes and values safety. The OSART programme strives to instil a safety culture that encourages the host organizations to identify and resolve safety issues themselves at an early stage.

Promoting information-sharing, transparency and trust

With the participation of various stakeholders, including each country's government, host organizations, regulators and industry peers, OSART missions serve as a wide international platform to exchange information and experiences, as well as to provide Member States with good practices and advice to improve safety performance at nuclear power plants. To date, OSART missions have identified 1350 good practices, which are also available to the public on the IAEA’s website. Operating organizations frequently review these good practices and implement those that are applicable to them.

To ensure transparency, the OSART guidelines are available to the public, as are the IAEA Safety Standards on which the service is based.  

“The IAEA’s peer review missions are more crucial now than ever, as they lay the foundation for the significant expansion of nuclear energy required to meet global climate goals,” Director General Grossi said.

“As we mark the 40th anniversary of the first OSART mission, I look forward to our Member States continuing to help us to field these critically important missions across the world,” he emphasized.

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