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INSAG Forum: The Future of Nuclear Safety and Influencing Factors


INSAG Forum during the 67th General Conference

The International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG) discussed and shared views on several different factors that will influence the future of nuclear safety, including climate change; the frequency of extreme environmental events; technological advancements; and geopolitical and economic developments at a side event during the IAEA’s 67th General Conference on 25 September 2023.

“We constantly strive to keep the IAEA’s safety standards up to date and robust. For instance, we reviewed their application during COVID-19, and strengthened some of them accordingly,” said IAEA Deputy Director General Lydie Evrard, Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, adding that “we are also, together with the Commission on Safety Standards and the Safety Standards Committees, preparing a long term plan for the safety standards, which will set the direction for the next 15 or 20 years.”

Participants at the forum highlighted a diverse set of crucial topics in the realm of nuclear safety. They noted that nuclear energy will be sustainable and acceptable only if nuclear safety and nuclear security are assured on an international basis. Discussions also revolved around the challenges and safety implications associated with the management of high level nuclear waste. The integration of artificial intelligence and other ground-breaking technologies into nuclear safety were also addressed, shedding light on the evolving landscape of nuclear operations. The discussions culminated with insights into bolstering resilience as a paramount measure to reinforce safety in the nuclear sector.

"It is clear that the peaceful use of nuclear energy is playing a part in addressing the global threat of climate change.  It could play a far greater role.  However, to do so into the future, nuclear energy has to address the real and significant issues associated with its further and wider use; for example, those associated with the impact of climate change and new technologies on nuclear safety, and people’s concerns about radioactive waste, " said Mike Weightman, Chair of the INSAG forum this year, "This forum, led by members of INSAG, sought to stimulate discussion and debate about some of these issues regarding the path to fulfilling the potential of the safe peaceful use of nuclear power for the benefit of all.  INSAG members will continue to assist in addressing such issues related to nuclear and radiological safety through their meetings and publications."  

Safety focuses on ensuring proper operating conditions at nuclear and radiological facilities, preventing – or mitigating the consequences of – accidents and, hence, protecting workers, patients, the public and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation.

The INSAG forum noted that there has been an advancement of artificial intelligence and other disruptive technologies with implications for nuclear safety. While these are vital for technological advancements; at the same time there exist several challenges, for example, the adoption of new technologies mandate rigorous validation and verification.

The INSAG forum emphasized the need for a multi-faceted approach to nuclear safety, one that accounts for a rapidly changing global landscape. Global issues like climate change, waste management, and technological advancements are shaping the future of nuclear safety, requiring concerted efforts to adapt and evolve continually. The discussions underscored the importance of building resilience as a key strategy in fortifying safety in the nuclear sector.

The role of INSAG

The International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG) is a group of experts with high professional competence in the field of nuclear and radiation safety and experience of working in regulatory organizations, nuclear industry, technical support organisations, research, or academic institutions.

INSAG is convened by the IAEA with the objective of providing the Director General of the IAEA with authoritative advice and recommendations on current and emerging issues in nuclear and radiation safety approaches, policies, and principles. INSAG addresses fundamental safety issues as well as current and emerging matters of importance relevant to the nuclear and radiation safety of all facilities and activities, including nuclear security issues insofar as they relate to nuclear and radiation safety. The group was created by the IAEA Director General in 1985.

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