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IAEA and WANO Strengthen Cooperation to Increase Nuclear Safety

IAEA's Integrated Regulatory Review Service team members and staff from the Chinese National Nuclear Safety Authority visited the Fuqing Nuclear Power Plant to review safety upgrades. This was part of an IAEA-led peer review of China's regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety. (Photo: NNSA)

The IAEA and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) can maximize safety benefits, increase efficiency and avoid conflicting advice by increasing cooperation on safety peer review services they offer to nuclear operators, said several delegates at this week’s 7th Review Meeting of the Contracting Parties of the Convention on Nuclear Safety.

“Sharing resources and avoiding duplication of effort is an important enabler of more effective peer review services and increased safety,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.

Increasing the efficiency of the reviews will be particularly important in anticipation of the increasing number of nuclear facilities worldwide in coming decades, said WANO Chairman Jacques Regaldo. WANO is a non-profit organization established in 1989 by the world’s nuclear power operators to exchange safety knowledge and operating experience among operators of commercial nuclear power plants.

“By 2030, half of the nuclear power reactors will be based in Asia, and we will have many newcomers to nuclear power,” he said. “There is real value for WANO to work together with the IAEA and others to help maximize the safety and reliability of nuclear power plants.”

At a side event organized by WANO and the IAEA on the margins of the Review Meeting, representatives from the two organizations agreed to enhance their cooperation to strengthen operational safety globally and to support countries that are planning or considering launching nuclear power programmes.

“Our activities are complementary in nature and are bound by a common interest in keeping nuclear energy safe,” said Greg Rzentkowski, Director of Nuclear Installation Safety at the IAEA. “For example, we both respond to existing and emerging challenges such as the need for harmonized approaches to strong safety culture implementation for both operators and regulators as well as support to countries new to nuclear power.”

Strengthening safety culture

WANO Chief Executive Officer Peter Prozesky said that both the IAEA and WANO work to promote a strong safety culture in nuclear power to “avoid significant events that can have a physical impact on the public and environment.” Both organizations need to work with newcomer countries and countries that are rapidly expanding their nuclear power programmes to ensure that new units will meet the same standards of excellence as existing ones, he said.

“The IAEA has a stronger role to play in the early establishment of the capacity of a country to begin a new programme, and WANO engages at the time that an operator has embarked on the build of a new plant,” Prozesky said. “We collaborate to help prospective new-build players create the appropriate infrastructure, skills and processes that will ensure safe operation.”

Ramzi Jammal, Executive Vice-President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and President of the Review Meeting, said that “safety culture must be embedded in the ‎supply chain from the manufacturer to the contractors and the subcontractors. Keeping in mind that the operators have the prime responsibility for safety, it is their responsibility and duty to prevent the use of counterfeit, fraudulent and suspect items, which could pose a safety risk. To mitigate this, the industry is responsible for identifying the suppliers who do not comply with nuclear safety requirements.”

In 2012, the IAEA and WANO signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance their cooperation. The cooperation includes participation in each other’s safety review missions,  common working groups to provide emergency response support, and co-organised workshops and meetings to facilitate exchange of experiences, good practices and lessons-learned among  nuclear operators and regulators.