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Global Network Meeting Discussed Licensing of SMRs and Strengthening the Interface Between Nuclear Safety and Security

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Delegates at the fifth plenary meeting of the Global Nuclear Safety and Security Network. (Photo: Y. Yustantiana/IAEA)

The importance of treating nuclear safety and security in a comprehensive and complementary manner and the challenges related to the regulation of Small and Medium Sized Reactors (SMRs), an emerging technology, were discussed at the fifth plenary meeting of the Global Nuclear Safety and Security Network (GNSSN), held today on the side-lines of the 62nd IAEA General Conference.

Safety AND Security: two sides of the same coin

Speakers at the event emphasized that taking safety and security into account concurrently leads to improvements in both fields. Interfacing areas between nuclear safety and security include the regulatory infrastructure, technical provisions for nuclear installations and the management of nuclear and other radioactive material.

“What’s important is that security measures do not compromise safety, and safety measures do not compromise security,” said Gustavo Caruso, Director of the IAEA Office of Safety and Security Coordination. The IAEA can help Member States identify the technical areas that need to be improved and work with stakeholders to support them in appropriately implementing IAEA safety standards and security guidance, he said.

Raoul Awad, Deputy Director General of the United Arab Emirates’ Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation, highlighted his country’s advanced efforts to maintain the highest standards for safety and security interface at nuclear facilities. “For example, the licensing processes for regulatory actions are the same for safety and radiation protection and security,” he said. Safety and security should be dealt with simultaneously, and potential conflicts or gaps should be carefully analysed to ensure that neither is jeopardized, he added.

Taib Marfak, Head of the Nuclear Safety Department at Morocco’s Nuclear and Radiological Safety and Security Agency (AMSSNuR), spoke about Morocco’s legal and regulatory framework, which includes provisions for the safety and security interface. “We have a strategic action plan that aims to integrate all nuclear safety and security interface measures and also includes safeguards,” he said, adding that Morocco has established a database of radioactive sources and nuclear material, and made a plan to search for any radioactive sources that might go missing. AMSSNuR is further developing and updating the regulatory framework to ensure the highest levels of safety and security.

Regulation and safety of SMRs

A session entitled Safety Challenges of SMRs focused on the technologies and future plans of SMRs. There is limited experience of design safety and regulatory assessment of SMRs, for which there are a variety of proposed designs, and the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security is working with experts from Member States on the development of a technology-neutral safety assessment framework together with exemplary applications for SMRs, said Cornelia Spitzer, Head of the IAEA’s Safety Assessment Section.

“To introduce SMRs as a source of energy, regulators and designers may apply the existing set of IAEA safety standards, with judgement, to determine how the requirements have to be considered,” Ms Spitzer said.

The role of the SMR Regulators’ Forum was also highlighted during this session. The Forum will facilitate the licensing of SMRs by discussing and identifying common safety issues as well as addressing challenges faced by regulators with respect to the new SMR technology.

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