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Delegates Discuss New Report to Enhance Nuclear Safety: Institutional Strength in Depth

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Representatives from various countries discuss how strengthening institutions contributes to nuclear safety. (Photo: F. Nassif/IAEA)

At an event organized alongside the IAEA General Conference today, representatives from several Member States discussed how strengthening institutions contributes to nuclear safety.

Ensuring Robust National Nuclear Safety Systems — Institutional Strength in Depth, also referred to as INSAG-27, was published in 2017 and is available online. It builds on key lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in 2011, and shows how institutional systems, if effective, can enhance nuclear safety.

The key message of the report is that strong and effective institutions that interact with each other to reinforce their performance are necessary for high levels of nuclear safety, as they ensure that standards are applied and best practices are followed. These institutions include regulators, operators and stakeholders such as the government and special interest groups. While INSAG-27 was written for professionals involved in the nuclear power sector, the concept it describes can be applied to all nuclear facilities.

“The nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi, along with many other major industrial accidents, emphasizes the need for robust national nuclear safety systems,” said Mike Weightman, member of INSAG. “INSAG-27 presents a simple model to help design, develop, test and assure such systems based on the concept of strength in depth.”

In the nuclear industry, building different layers or levels of safety in nuclear installations to protect people and the environment in case of an accident is known as ‘defence in depth’. INSAG-27 draws on the broad elements of this concept, transferring them from the world of engineering to the operation of institutions.

While the primary responsibility for safety lies with the operator, and the primary responsibility for safety oversight lies with the regulator, the role of other stakeholders is important as they serve to assure that the operator and the regulator are fulfilling their obligations.

During a roundtable discussion, speakers highlighted changes to IAEA safety standards, procedures and services carried out in line with the observations and lessons related to human and organizational factors included in the 2015 IAEA publication, ‘The Fukushima Daiichi Accident’, a report by the IAEA Director General. They concluded that the IAEA safety standards address most of the elements of the institutional strength-in-depth concept.

“It is important to seek input from Member States regarding what support they need to apply the INSAG-27 recommendations,” said Helen Rycraft, Senior Nuclear Safety Officer at the IAEA.

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