The world´s leading experts in nuclear safety are seeking to drive home lessons learned about the safe operation of nuclear installations, and how to keep improving it. The venue is an IAEA Conference on Topical Issues in Nuclear Safety hosted by China and opening 18 October in Beijing. Mr. Richard Meserve, former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Chairman of the International Nuclear Safety Group, is serving as president of the Conference.
Though much progress has been made in improving the performance of nuclear installations over the past years, numerous issues continue to be of concern in the world's changing nuclear environment. They include the:
- growing diversification and globalization of the nuclear community, with one challenge being the use of common internationally accepted safety standards;
- continued reporting of events whose root causes raise safety questions for regulatory authorities and operating organizations alike;
- long term operation of nuclear facilities, including nuclear power plants where licensing extensions increasingly are being sought for their commercial operation.
The Conference seeks to develop an international consensus on the basic approaches for dealing with these issues, and for strengthening international cooperation through the IAEA and other channels. More than 30 countries are operating or building nuclear plants for electricity generation, and dozens more have research reactors or nuclear fuel cycle facilities.
The IAEA continues to work towards the development of sound collaborative approaches for dealing with safety issues, Director General Mohamed ElBaradei recently noted. "Continued strong safety performance is essential if nuclear power is to remain a viable energy option, and should remain a global priority," he said.