The rapid expansion of nuclear and radiation-related activities in many States has highlighted the limited number of available skilled and experienced experts. Nuclear safety considerations in these countries make a qualified workforce mandatory. Nuclear security considerations and other drivers add to this need. For many organizations and institutions, expertise and resources necessary to sustaining nuclear and radiation safety and security are in very short supply. Technical and Scientific Support Organizations (TSOs) help fill these resource gaps.
TSOs comprise of competent, long-standing experts who deliver technical and scientific services to national nuclear regulatory authorities and industry. They also may advise governments to assist them in achieving the highest possible levels of safety and security for nuclear, waste management, radiation protection-independent of external interests.
What Challenges do TSOs Face?
TSOs face many challenges in building and maintaining strategic partnerships to support the expansion or the re-establishment of a nuclear programme in countries with operating nuclear power programmes and in countries embarking on nuclear power for the first time.
TSOs are private sector companies and organizations worldwide whose key role focuses on the design, construction, operation and management of nuclear plants (NPPs). However, they can and do work for both industry and the regulatory body at the same time. Maintaining their independence from owner/operators, regulators and vendors requires them to follow a strict code of ethics so that nuclear safety and security is not compromised by these overlapping relationships.
In embarking countries, TSOs from other countries are often called upon to supply various services and hence, need to be able to cope with the way in which countries nuclear safety regulations differs; TSO's must maintain expertise on nuclear safety even when facing changing requirements from country to country.
How does IAEA support Member States use of TSOs?
IAEA plays a vital part in the national and international efforts made to ensure the effectiveness of nuclear safety and security of regulatory systems. This includes promoting and supporting efforts to maintain and strengthen the actions of TSOs in the enhancement of global safety and security; fostering technical meetings and international conferences specifically aimed at developing and enhancing a common understanding of the responsibilities, needs, functions and opportunities of TSOs; and strengthening international cooperation and networking among TSOs with a view to firm up nuclear and radiation safety and security regulations, including capacity building.
In addition, the IAEA has signed a practical arrangements agreement with IRSN - the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety of France on 27 March 2014, which provides for a cooperation mechanism to obtain alternate radiation safety technical services when needed, such as individual monitoring, calibration and assessment. These practical arrangements extend both organizations' abilities to provide radiation protection services to Member States upon request.
Finally, the IAEA is convening the third TSO conference in Beijing, from 27 to 31 October 2014, which provides an important platform to discuss the challenges faced by the TSOS in providing assistance to regulators and operators with regard to nuclear and radiation safety and security. Specifically, this conference aims to:
- Discuss the role of research and development in enhancing nuclear safety;
- Help participants to understand the impact of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident on TSOs and to extract lessons to be learned;
- Highlight the role of TSOs in the implementation of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety;
- Provide a forum for discussion of the roles, functions and value of TSOs in enhancing nuclear and radiation safety and nuclear security, including through capacity building in those countries launching or expanding their nuclear power programmes;
- Facilitate the exchange of experience and good practices in planning and implementing cooperative activities for capacity building and in identifying needs for assistance activities from the standpoint of recipient countries;
- Consider appropriate approaches for enhancing cooperation and effective networking among TSOs and beyond, including centres of excellence;
- Provide an overview of the technical and scientific support needed for maintaining a sustainable nuclear safety and security system; and
- Foster continued dialogue on all relevant technical, scientific, organizational and legal aspects at the international level.
More information on this conference can be accessed here.
Regular updates throughout the conference can be viewed on the IAEA's Facebook page and on Twitter using the hashtag #TSObeijing.