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Nuclear Operators Enhance Safety through IAEA Peer Reviews

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Over 95% of findings by IAEA operational safety review missions at nuclear power plants are resolved or in satisfactory progress by the time of follow-up missions, usually conducted 18 months after the main mission. (Photo: M. Klingenboeck/IAEA)

Operators of nuclear facilities act promptly on the findings of IAEA Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) missions, a recent IAEA analysis has shown. Over 95% of the findings are resolved or in satisfactory progress by the time of follow-up missions, usually conducted 18 months after the main mission. This was the conclusion of an analysis of the effectiveness of the OSART service, based on the 35 OSART follow-up missions that were conducted between 2012 and 2018.

While nuclear safety is a national responsibility and the task of oversight falls on nuclear regulators in each country, IAEA Member States can seek an independent, international perspective by requesting peer review missions from the Agency to assess the existing operational safety performance of nuclear operators against IAEA Safety Standards and industry best practices.

The OSART review is not a regulatory inspection to determine compliance with national requirements, and nor does it attempt to evaluate the plants’ overall safety performance. OSART missions are designed to assist nuclear operators in strengthening the operational safety of nuclear power plants through the identification of areas that could be improved and the formulation of corresponding proposals.

Operators that host an OSART mission generally invite a follow-up mission to review the progress made on the implementation of the initial recommendations and suggestions and provide further advice, as needed. The IAEA studies the progress of actions by the host operators in addressing the findings during the follow-up missions to assess whether the missions are effective in supporting operators’ safety improvement efforts and to identify opportunities for further improving the OSART process.

OSART missions provide operators with insights on how to increase safety further, said several senior managers at power plants that have recently hosted such missions in Canada, Romania and Finland, among others.

Canada: “As a learning organization, we welcome the opportunity to align with industry best practices and continually challenge ourselves to keep moving the bar higher,” said Randy Lockwood, Senior Vice President, Pickering Nuclear, Ontario Power Generation, which hosted an OSART mission in 2016 and a follow-up mission in 2018. “We are pleased the team recognized the significant improvements we have made in our performance, in part due to the recommendations from the 2016 OSART Mission. The results of this follow-up mission will help us continue our record of safe operations and ensure we deliver on our commitment to secure Ontario’s clean power future.”

Romania: “We appreciate the advice from the OSART mission in 2016 and have carefully analysed all the issues it identified. We developed and implemented a comprehensive action plan to address them over the past two years, and sometimes our actions went beyond the original scope of the recommendations,” said Dan Bigu, Site Vice President of Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plant in Romania. “The OSART mission has proven to be very beneficial in our continued effort of performance improvement.”

Finland: “We consider international peer reviews to be an important element in improving nuclear safety. Exchanging best practices and learning from other plants is highly valuable for all of us in the nuclear industry,” said Satu Katajala, manager of Finland’s Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant, which hosted an OSART mission in March 2018. “The results and development areas of this OSART review will be included in the continuous improvement of the Loviisa power plant operations.”

The IAEA launched the OSART programme in 1982 and currently conducts six to eight OSART missions per year. It is continuously improving the OSART programme by expanding the scope of the review, updating the review methodology, revising relevant IAEA safety standards and enlarging the pool of national experts to participate in the reviews. It also cooperates with organizations such as the World Association of Nuclear Operators to coordinate peer review missions and optimize the resources needed to host peer review missions.

OSART missions involve all relevant stakeholders, including the government, the host organization, the national regulator and the nuclear industry. Through press releases, press conferences and publishing of the final reports on public websites, the missions can also support transparency and public confidence in nuclear safety.

“The strong commitment to improvement we find in follow-up missions illustrates just how effective OSART missions are in supporting Member States’ work to enhance safety performance,” said Greg Rzentkowski, Director of Nuclear Installation Safety at the IAEA.  “We encourage all Member States operating nuclear power plants to use this service, and in particular those that have not hosted a mission in recent years, to continuously improve nuclear safety.”

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