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Nuclear Newcomers Share Experience as Regulatory Cooperation Forum Implements Strategic Plan


The Regulatory Cooperation Forum (RCF), which provides a platform for nuclear newcomers to receive support from countries with operating nuclear power plants, met on the sidelines of the 65th IAEA General Conference. (Photo: A. Tarhi/IAEA)

A year after the launch of the IAEA Regulatory Cooperation Forum (RCF) Strategic Plan 2020-2024, members of the RCF gathered for a plenary session today on the margins of the 65th IAEA General Conference. The plenary discussed the experience of countries introducing nuclear power for the first time and reviewed the implementation steps and progress of the Strategic Plan.

“Our primary goal is to achieve the highest standards of safety based on the IAEA safety standards,” said Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, in her opening remarks. “The Agency is strongly committed to the continuous improvement of our support programmes, focusing on the needs of recipient countries.”

The RCF is a member-driven forum of nuclear power regulators that promotes the sharing of regulatory knowledge and experience through international cooperation and collaboration. Members include countries with advanced nuclear power programs, those embarking on nuclear power and countries with smaller programs considering expansion. It provides a platform for nuclear newcomers to receive support from countries with operating nuclear power plants.

Newcomer experiences

The United Arab Emirates and Belarus commenced commercial operation of their first nuclear power plants in 2021. The UAE worked with the IAEA for a decade and has hosted 11 missions, including Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) and Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) missions, to support the development of a safe and sustainable nuclear power programme. In the process of licensing the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), which was established in 2009, engaged the experience of countries of advanced nuclear power programmes. For example, FANR used safety evaluations by the regulatory body from the Republic of Korea and engaged three technical support organizations (TSOs) in Europe and the United States of America to support its review of the construction license application.

“We engaged international experts, both in-house and externally through TSOs. FANR provided alignment and direction to ensure consistency across the licences application review,” said Raoul Awad, Deputy Director General-Operations at FANR. “Open and transparent communication with the applicant helped improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the project.”

Olga Lugovskaya, Head of the Department for Nuclear and Radiation Safety at the Ministry for Emergency Situations in Belarus, shared her country’s experience in developing a regulatory framework and infrastructure and highlighted the value of international instruments and cooperation through the RCF. In addition to technical assistance projects with the IAEA and the European Commission, Belarus has bilateral cooperation agreements with 17 countries to help develop the country’s regulatory infrastructure.

“We have a number of international instruments. What is important for us now is to manage all of them so that they work together towards the further development of the regulatory framework in Belarus,” she said.

The next RCF meeting will provide an opportunity to share experiences related to the development of regulatory infrastructure of nuclear power, which will focus on six common challenges identified in the Strategic Plan. The meeting will be hosted in Vienna, 30 November to 2 December. “We have learned over the years that recipient countries themselves can provide support among themselves. We have realized that lessons learned by the UAE, for example, are very useful for lessons to be learned by other recipients, like Nigeria, Bangladesh and others,” said Bismark Tyobeka, RCF Chair and CEO of National Nuclear Regulator, South Africa.

Improving support programmes

The IAEA is considering offering embarking countries an expert mission in Phase 2 to complement other IAEA reviews with an in-depth focus on the regulatory infrastructure. (Graphic: A. Vargas/IAEA)

The nuclear safety infrastructure development timeline for countries embarking on a nuclear power programme is divided into three phases, according to the IAEA Milestones Approach. During Phase 2 “a regulatory body faces numerous challenges for developing its capability and the regulatory framework required to effectively regulate the safety of a nuclear power plant,” explained Jean-Rene Jubin, Senior Nuclear Safety Officer at the IAEA. “A regulator should ideally be nearly fully functional at the end of Phase 2 to oversee the construction of a nuclear power plant right from the beginning of Phase 3.”

The IAEA is considering offering embarking countries an expert mission in Phase 2, covering only the issues related to the development of the safety infrastructure for a nuclear power programme. This mission would complement other IAEA reviews with an in-depth focus on the regulatory infrastructure.

One of the principal functions of a regulatory body is to authorize specific activities at the various stages of the lifetime of a nuclear installation. Since 2020, the IAEA has been developing a roadmap and associated handbooks to support newcomers in licensing their first nuclear power plant. The roadmap also corresponds with the phased Milestones Approach and outlines prerequisites, identifies safety actions, suggests peer review services and utilizes training modules. Three handbooks – covering the initiation, site selection and evaluation, as well as safety design and safety assessment phases – are under development and will complement the roadmap.

“The handbooks will address key challenges to licensing and how to resolve them,” said Masahiro Aoki, Senior Nuclear Safety Expert at the IAEA. The IAEA continues to encourage input from RCF members to the Generic Roadmap project to record and share lessons learned and experiences in implementing a nuclear safety infrastructure."

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