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Supporting International Exchange of Operating Experience for Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities


Participants at the 2022 FINAS National Coordinators meeting that took place in  Paris, France. (Photo: L. Valiveti / IAEA)

Twenty-six national coordinators from 20 countries discussed ways to further enhance the Fuel Incident Notification and Analysis System (FINAS) at a recent meeting in Paris France. FINAS, jointly operated by the IAEA and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)/ NEA, helps in the collection, analysis, maintenance and dissemination of reports on safety-related events at nuclear fuel cycle facilities.

At the meeting, Vesselina Ranguelova, Deputy Head of Nuclear Safety Technology and Regulation Division at the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), highlighted the importance of learning from operational events experience. “This will help the nuclear fuel cycle community to advance the operational safety level of such facilities all over the world,” she said. “NEA and IAEA continue to support their member countries to process and utilize this experience in an effective and efficient manner.”

The technical meeting jointly organised by the IAEA and the OECD/ NEA took place from 26 to 29 September 2022.

“As a first-time participant I found the meeting to be a fruitful exchange of information between Member States, with an emphasis on learning from each other.  The value of reporting events to FINAS was evident and would encourage other Member States to participate in IAEA’s important initiative,” said Andrew McAllister, Director of Nuclear Processing Facilities Division at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

The FINAS system plays a key role on collating vital details on safety-related events at nuclear fuel cycle facilities (NFCFs) and is an important tool for international exchange of operating experience for NFCFs. It is a global contact network and forum that enables the operators and regulators of NFCFs to share and review information on lessons learned from reported events on a worldwide basis. More than 300 events have been reported to FINAS since it was established in 1992.

During the three-day meeting, participants, IAEA and OECD/NEA representatives, discussed the operating experience from events that occurred at NFCFs and methods for improvement of effectiveness of FINAS. Presentations included descriptions of the events at nuclear fuel cycle facilities, the identified causes and the actions taken at the facilities to prevent their recurrence. “This operating experience will further help designers, operators, and regulators of NFCFs to enhance nuclear safety,” said Amgad Shokr, Head of the IAEA Research Reactor Safety Section.

Participants agreed that appropriate attention should be given to strengthening the development and implementation of operating procedures and improvements in automation, sensors and remote handling for operations involving highly radioactive materials.

“FINAS provides a useful platform for international exchange of operating experience. The effectiveness of this platform can be enhanced by improved reporting to the system and dissemination of information and lessons learned from the events to the end-users,” highlighted Shokr.

The next technical meeting on FINAS will be organized by the IAEA in 2024.

What are nuclear fuel cycle facilities?

Nuclear fuel cycle facilities support the operation of nuclear plants and cover a diverse range of areas across the fuel cycle where nuclear and radioactive material are handled in various ways, such as in mining, fabrication of nuclear fuel, reprocessing and storage of spent nuclear fuel. They are of a variety of designs involving various amounts and types of nuclear materials and hazardous chemicals, therefore presenting different levels of potential radiological and also non-radiological hazards. There are over 300 nuclear fuel cycle facilities operating across 54 countries worldwide.

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