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IAEA Conducts 200th Nuclear Power Plant Operational Safety Review

For the 200th time, an IAEA Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) team has arrived at a nuclear power plant – this time in Almaraz, Spain – to review practices important to safety.

The team, comprised of 13 international experts and two team leaders from the IAEA, has been invited by the Spanish Government and is spending around three weeks at the plant to perform a review of operational safety using IAEA safety standards - a comprehensive set of documents that reflect a global consensus on what is considered a high level of nuclear and radiation safety. OSART teams make recommendations and suggestions for improvement and identify good international practices and experiences that are shared internationally, leading to stronger safety across the nuclear power industry.

“The OSART programme has played a big part in improving safety performance at nuclear power plants globally since its launch in 1982,” said Peter Tarren, Head of the IAEA’s Operational Safety Section and leader of the team conducting the 5-22 February 2018 review at Almaraz. He noted that many of the types of issues found in past years no longer appear in reviews.

“The industry has fixed a lot of the things that we were finding some time ago,” he said.  “So we are now moving on to the next level. Our aim is always to enhance safety. It does not matter how good you get – you can always seek to be better.”

The OSART experts review policy- and procedure documents with plant officials to compare these with IAEA safety standards and visit work areas at the plants to confirm that policies and processes are being properly applied. They are on the lookout for methods and behaviours that could be improved for better safety, and for good practices that could be used to enhance performance at other plants.

They observe labels, cables, valves, pumps, generators and much more. They look at how equipment is stored, for example whether it is well-secured, or if it might topple and cause damage in an earthquake. They observe how easy emergency equipment is to reach and whether it is ready to use. They assess whether everybody at the plant shares the same vision of what excellent safety means, analyse plant leadership and safety culture, and observe plant meetings and staff interactions.

After three weeks of intensive work, the team’s observations are compiled in a report that contains recommendations and suggestions to improve safety, as well as good practices that could be adopted elsewhere to strengthen safety. The report is shared with the government, the regulatory body and the plant operator. In most cases, the report is made public.

For host plants, an OSART mission is a significant investment of staff time and other resources. But it is an investment that pays off, said Almaraz plant director José María Bernaldo de Quiró.

“It is a privilege to host this group of international specialists, sharing information and experiences with them and benefiting from their knowledge and opinions,” he said. “The OSART mission is an opportunity for us to improve safety.”

The IAEA has adapted the contents of the OSART programme in pace with developments in the nuclear power industry. For example, lessons from the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan have been incorporated in the review.

“We evolve and change the OSART programme so that it supports international efforts to continuously enhance nuclear safety,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Safety and Security.

Members of the IAEA OSART team at the 200th OSART review in Almaraz, Spain. (Photo: M. Klingenboeck/IAEA)

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