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Pandemic’s Impact and Enhancing Regulations Discussed at Nuclear Safety & Security Gathering


The Global Nuclear Safety and Security Network (GNSSN) Plenary is an annual meeting held on the margins of the IAEA General Conference. (Photo: A. Tarhi/IAEA)

Enhancing regulations for nuclear safety and security and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global and regional networks’ activities were the focus of discussion at this year’s Global Nuclear Safety and Security Network (GNSSN) Plenary Meeting. This meeting is an important annual gathering of experts in the nuclear safety and security field and is usually held during the IAEA’s General Conference.

Launched in 2006, GNSSN supports the IAEA’s Nuclear Safety and Security Programme by enhancing international cooperation and dialogue among global, regional and national technical networks in nuclear safety and security.

“Since last year, our activities have been dominated by COVID-19. Despite its challenges, our enthusiasm has not been affected,” said Alfredo de los Reyes Castelo, Head of International Relations at the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) and Chair of the GNSSN’s Steering Committee. He updated the plenary on the committee’s work since August 2020 and outlined a tentative agenda for the Steering Committee over the remainder of its term.

De los Reyes Castelo emphasized the importance of upgrading GNSSN’s IT platform, calling on all GNSSN members to participate in and support the network. He said the committee aims to highlight and further promote the importance of the GNSSN as a vital global resource for nuclear safety and security information.

The Steering Committee is the principal external advisory body for GNSSN and provides independent advice and assessments on ensuring the effectiveness of the GNSSN programme and promoting its activities.

In his remarks Shahid Mallick, acting Director of the Office of Safety and Security Coordination said: “Through your actions and support, the international community can come together to share best practices, exchange data and information, and identify challenges and mutual solutions. Engagement through GNSSN is critical to ensuring the long-term sustainability of these networks and help to ensure that the content and focus remain relevant to the challenges on nuclear safety and security issues of today.”

Adapting to a pandemic

In a discussion on how the pandemic has impacted the work of GNSSN stakeholders worldwide, the plenary heard from experts at the Ibero-American Forum of Radiological and Nuclear Regulatory Agencies (FORO), the IAEA Technical and Scientific Support Organizations Forum (TSOF) and the European and Central Asia Safety Network (EuCAS).

Carla Eibl-Schwaeger from TSOF said pandemic restrictions had made it more difficult to restart or start new activities after an initial pause in work and how virtual meetings were eventually successfully adopted.

FORO’s Rosbell Bosch said that while FORO’s steering committee used to meet once or twice a year, they now meet virtually six times a year – which allows for closer cooperation.

Zoran Tesanovic from EuCAS said his network had also successfully transitioned to virtual environments but concerns existed whether virtual meetings were always effective in transferring experience and knowledge. He said face-to-face meetings were still better for some kinds of work and that some countries don’t always have the means to engage in virtual events effectively.

Schooled in regulation

In the event’s second session, IAEA speakers discussed key activities to enhance regulations for nuclear safety and security around the world. They highlighted the school for drafting regulations, which has been supporting countries through both in-person and virtual courses over the past few years.

Manuel Recio Santamaria, an IAEA Senior Radiation Safety Specialist, likened legislation to a bicycle that needed regulations as a "frame" to hold it together and be effective. He, along with colleagues Swapna Gourasni and Luisa Betancourt-Hernandez, shared information about the IAEA’s School for Drafting Regulations on Radiation Safety. Recio said the school was a process, not a single workshop and that the IAEA frequently receives requests from participants for assistance in drafting regulation.

Stephanie Boniface from Seychelles’ Ministry of Employment, Immigration and Civil Status shared her experience attending the IAEA’s school. She explained how the school allowed her country to align draft regulations with IAEA recommendations and connected her with peers in similar countries, from whom she could learn. The piece of regulation that she worked on at the school was submitted to her country’s Cabinet and is now being finalised, she added.

Richard Sseggane, from Uganda’s Atomic Energy Council, also took the floor in the meeting. He attended an IAEA regulation drafting pilot school for African countries in 2019 and found the experience beneficial. He said part of the school’s success can be attributed to it being facilitated by a trusted and credible organization, the IAEA, and was happy to see further improvements in how the school was run, primarily online. He said that the school’s digital developments would help attract more students. The regulations that Sseggane had worked on while attending the IAEA school were published a few months ago and are now in force in Uganda.

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