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Importance of Sharing Safety Incident Outcomes Emphasized in Panel Discussion, New Publication

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Challenges associated with learning from regulatory and operating experience were addressed during a panel discussion last week at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in Petten, the Netherlands. (Photo: M. Klingenboeck/IAEA)

The sharing of both regulatory and operating experience is crucial for the improvement of nuclear safety practices, and the challenges associated with learning from this experience were addressed during a panel discussion last week at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the European Clearinghouse on Operational Experience for Nuclear Power Plants. A new IAEA publication also highlights recent safety incidents, including the importance of drawing lessons by operators.

The Clearinghouse is a regional network, established by the European Commission, to foster and enhance cooperation on nuclear safety by sharing lessons learned from operating experience. Experts from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) in Petten, the Netherlands, work with nuclear regulatory authorities from across the European Union to examine past incidents at nuclear installations, including power plants, research reactors and fuel cycle facilities, to learn how nuclear safety practices can be improved.

The IAEA has several reporting systems in place which have been designed to enhance sharing of regulatory and operating experience. These include the International Reporting System, the Fuel Incident Notification and Analysis System and the Incident Reporting System for Research Reactors. “Sharing of operating experience supports continuous safety improvements globally,” said Greg Rzentkowski, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Installation Safety.

“Reporting and assessment systems, such as the EU Clearinghouse, help the international community of regulators and operators learn from past events and accidents to prevent future ones.” The cooperation between the IAEA and the European Clearinghouse is a good example of complementary efforts between the IAEA and regional institutions to enhance nuclear safety, he added.

Rzentkowski chaired a panel discussion titled ‘From Data to Collective Knowledge’ on 20 April 2018. Panellists emphasized the importance of improving these reporting systems by, for example, avoiding duplication and following up on previous reports. Sharing best practices in addition to lessons from events was also highlighted as an important component of improving nuclear safety.

Furthermore, it was also recognized that additional steps need to be taken to enhance the sharing of regulatory experience.  “The systematic collection, analysis and sharing of regulatory experience will help us harmonize regulatory approaches and continuously improve the regulatory oversight process,” Rzentkowski said.

Drawing on experience to improve safety

An IAEA publication released this month has come to the same conclusion regarding nuclear facility operators: sharing incident reports and the lessons learned is important for global safety. The publication summarizes a study of 258 reports by Member States to the International Reporting System, jointly operated by the IAEA and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD. Thirty-one participating countries submit reports on unusual events considered important for safety. 

The publication, Nuclear Power Plant Operating Experience from the IAEA/NEA International Reporting System for Operating Experience, provides insights on lessons learned from safety events that occurred from 2012 through 2014 and identifies areas for improvement.

“It is important that lessons are learned and main corrective actions are shared to support continuous improvement of safety, even from less significant events,” said Tea Bilic Zabric, the IAEA nuclear safety officer in charge of the publication.

The publication also aims to improve the International Reporting System by defining more clearly what constitutes a significant event that should be reported to the system.

“This will ensure that the reporting system becomes even more useful,” Zabric said, adding that reports sometimes are unnecessarily delayed due to the reports being translated before they are submitted. She emphasized that the IAEA welcomes reports in all six United Nations languages — Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

The systematic collection, analysis and sharing of regulatory experience will help us harmonize regulatory approaches and continuously improve the regulatory oversight process.
Greg Rzentkowski, Director, Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, IAEA

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