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CANDU Regulators Share Experiences to Strengthen Safety at IAEA-hosted Meeting

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The Embalse Nuclear Power Station in Argentina has had its steam generators replaced as part of a refurbishment. (Photo: Autoridad Regulatoria Nuclear)

With many CANDU reactors approaching the end of their licensed operating period, regulators of such nuclear power reactors are often tasked with reviewing licence applications for long term operation and subsequently, once the approval is granted, overseeing reactor refurbishment activities. How to best handle such matters was discussed during the CANDU Regulators’ Forum’s annual meeting, held December 10 to 14 2018 at the IAEA headquarters.

Regulators from Argentina, Canada, China, India, the Republic of Korea, Pakistan and Romania took part in the meeting, held under the auspices of the IAEA. CANDU reactors make up about 10 percent of the world’s 454 operational nuclear power reactors.

“International cooperation among CANDU regulators helps strengthen the national nuclear safety framework in countries that operate CANDU reactors,” said IAEA Nuclear Installation Safety Director Greg Rzentkowski. “This is particularly important now, as many licence applications for reactor long term operation are undergoing regulatory reviews and operators are planning to start or have started already refurbishment projects involving safety upgrades and the replacement of most major systems and components.”

National regulatory rules regarding modifications and safety upgrades for long-term operation are not always clearly defined. Instead, regulators often base their decisions on operating experience, the outcome of safety assessments against up-to-date safety standards, and fitness for service of structures, systems and components.

Meeting participants reported on regulatory approaches and lessons learned from refurbishments and long-term operation. The agenda also included discussions on regulatory strategy for public involvement and information-sharing in regulatory decision making on life extensions and long-term operation.

“Meaningful communication with the stakeholders during the regulatory approval process for life extension is one of the very important consideration in maintain public confidence and acceptance,” said Meeting Chair Gerry Frappier, Director General, Directorate of Power Reactor Regulations at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

The meeting participants also identified topics to focus on in the coming year, including approaches to maintain technical and regulatory competence, regulatory practices for new technologies and leadership and safety culture within regulatory bodies.

IAEA speakers updated the participants on IAEA safety standards, peer review missions and other nuclear safety work.

The IAEA supports the CANDU Regulators’ Forum to enable participants to improve operational safety, enhance regulatory effectiveness and maintain knowledge and competence through the sharing of experiences.

Participants in the CANDU Senior Regulators Meeting. (Photo: N. Pushilkar/IAEA)

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