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Enhancing Regulatory Frameworks, Discussed at Senior Regulatory Meeting


Senior Safety and Security Regulators' Meeting during the 67th General Conference. (Photo: H. Junyan)

Achieving effective, independent and sustainable governmental regulatory authority; enhancing regulatory and safety frameworks for nuclear installations; and further strengthening leadership roles were among the key topics discussed at the recent Senior Safety and Security Regulators’ Meeting side event during the 67th IAEA General Conference. 

“Innovative and diverse methods are needed to support the next generation of leaders in nuclear safety, the anticipation and identification of new and evolving threats on safety and security from a regulatory perspective is key to continue strengthening robust nuclear and radiation safety worldwide,” said Lydie Evrard IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, adding that “information sharing, transparency, communication, and international cooperation are equally essential elements of the global nuclear safety and security framework and for collaboration and capacity building.”

The IAEA supports its Member States in their work to strengthen their regulatory systems so that they can fulfil their important roles through the safety standards, peer reviews and advisory services and capacity building efforts. International conferences such as International Conference on Effective Nuclear and Radiation Regulatory Systems (Regcon2023) that took place in February this year, provide a unique forum for countries to review issues of importance to the global regulatory community and highlight the role of the regulator in ensuring a high standard of safety and security. 

During the event’s first session, participants discussed the “Call for Action” issued as an outcome of the RegCon2023, and shared their insights on how to monitor the implementation of the four elements covered in the “Call for Action” — namely leadership; organizational readiness and agility; trust; and collaboration and capacity building. 

Christopher Hanson, in his introductory remarks, said “It is only by leveraging our collective wisdom, enthusiasm, ideas, and capabilities that we will be truly ready to address the challenges that lie ahead of us.” He underscored the importance of carrying forward the themes from the RegCon2023 and working as a unified community to prepare for a future full of possibility and unknowns. He expressed his vision that “as regulators, we are going places where we have never been, and it is our chance to be intrepid leaders, to develop the regulatory leaders who will carry on our legacy in the future, and to uphold our critical role of ensuring safety and security at all nuclear facilities.”

In his presentation that focused on the “Call for Action,” Shahid Mallick, Director of the IAEA Office for Office of Safety and Security Coordination, explained that “A number of IAEA activities have been initiated in support of the implementation of recommended action — such as the International Schools on Nuclear and Radiological Leadership for Safety, initiatives such as the Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI) and a wide range of activities on public trust, communication and capacity building.” He assured the participants that the IAEA will continue to build on these activities and even add more to keep the momentum for the “Call for Action.”

Participants learned about the importance of leadership in nuclear and radiation regulations.  Gillian Hirth, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), listed a number of emerging issues for which leadership is particularly needed and highlighted key values, namely: authenticity, transparency, accountability and inclusion. Additionally, she underscored the importance of organizational readiness and agility for which strategic planning, commitment with stakeholders as well as the importance of transparency and independence of the regulators.  

During the event’s second session, participants learned about some of challenges presented by dis- and misinformation about nuclear and radiation safety and security. As technological advances such as social media and generative artificial intelligence increase the scale and depth of their impact, dis-  and misinformation present risks not just to information integrity, but to public health and safety, fundamental rights, and democratic processes. Under the conditions of information overload, the negative effects of dis- and misinformation are augmented by cognitive biases, and corrective messaging often goes unnoticed in the already oversaturated information space.  

“Dis- and misinformation challenge both Member States and the Agency, when we communicate routinely and in a nuclear emergency. These developments can impact our ability to maintain public trust in nuclear regulatory institutions,” said Evrard, adding that, “the Agency is working with researchers and other international partners to assess tools, measures, and collaboration processes to mitigate these hazards.” 

The IAEA coordinated research project on “Potential Mitigation Measures for the Disruptive Effects of Mass-Scale Disinformation Produced by Generative AI in Nuclear or Radiological Incidents and Emergencies” was presented at this event.  

Giulio Corsi, a Cambridge University researcher supporting an IAEA coordinated research project analysing the circulation of disinformation produced by generative AI, described how the public can be deceived by this “synthetic” content and perceive disinformation as authoritative information. “In an emergency, the counterfeit information is shared by social media users who seek to inform their network, or to gain visibility by posting topical messages. When these demonstrably false messages are shared widely by the public, the emergency response organizations have a dual challenge to correct a “viral” and possibly dangerously misleading message while encouraging the public to only follow protective advice from the authorities,” he said, adding that “Generative AI can produce deceptive synthetic content at scale and in multiple language, increasing the hazardous nature of this novel form of emergency disruption.” 

Ramzi Jammal (CNSC, Canada) in his remarks explained how difficult it is to “elbow our way through competing voices in the array of communications spheres and seeing more dis- and misinformation. Let’s face it, the voice of the regulator can sometimes be too technical or boring to some, and asking “how can we push in and take our space?” This requires a mix of creative communications and a willingness to push boundaries, without compromising our credibility.”

During the panel discussion, representatives of Member States and IAEA experts focused on specific challenges and strategies to address them, along with identifying ways in which the IAEA could further support regulators in countering the threat of dis- and misinformation from their generation, dissemination and reception. As the discussions made clear, in responding to contemporary threats of dis- and misinformation, building broader partnerships with different stakeholders via coordinated and multifaceted efforts is indispensable, and the Agency is well-positioned to lead in this respect.  

During the meeting, attention was also drawn to the upcoming International Conference on Nuclear Security: Shaping the Future —ICONS 2024—which will provide a global forum for ministers, policymakers, senior officials and nuclear security experts to discuss the future of nuclear security worldwide, whilst providing opportunities for exchanging information, sharing best practices and fostering international cooperation and increase visibility and awareness through communication on nuclear security. 

The Senior Regulators’ Meeting is an annual event organized by the IAEA during the General Conference. It is a forum for exchange of information on current regulatory issues, trends and good practices among senior government officials involved in regulatory matters in the fields of nuclear, radiation, transport and radioactive waste safety and nuclear security. The meeting also focusses on IAEA Secretariat initiatives to support regulatory bodies. 



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