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Working together to strengthen nuclear safety

Chief Executive and Chief Nuclear Inspector Mark Foy last week attended the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference to consider ways of further strengthening nuclear safety worldwide.

This year, 11 March, marked ten years since the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.

A decade later, the nuclear community gathered in Vienna, Austria, to look back on what lessons have been learnt and to explore opportunities to further strengthen the international framework for nuclear safety.

Mark played a full role in the conference and was a panellist for the session on 'Ensuring the Safety of Nuclear Installations – Minimizing the Possibility of Serious Off-Site Radioactive Releases'.

Mark Foy said: “It’s important that national nuclear regulators took the time to consider the Fukushima-Daiichi event, and the improvements it informed, to ensure the high standards of safety that we expect of the nuclear industry will be consistently maintained in the future.

“I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to work with fellow national regulators and colleagues at the IAEA to reflect on progress following the event and set new goals for the international framework for nuclear safety.”

During the conference, Mark met with the Rafael Grossi, Director General (DG) of the IAEA, for the first time to discuss how national regulators reflect and act upon the lessons from the conference.

Other topics of discussion included Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), Mr Grossi’s recent visit to the Sellafield site in Cumbria and further opportunities for collaboration amongst national regulatory bodies, with the goal of achieving common approaches for reactor technology assessment.

Mark met with DG Grossi later in the week, the Chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, to highlight joint commitment to regulatory collaboration and harmonisation and how this could be achieved.

He also took part in the International Gender Champions Impact Group meeting with other regulators from around the world.

At the meeting he stressed how committed we are to making the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) a truly diverse and inclusive place to work where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

Mark Foy said: “I’m pleased I was able to contribute to the International Gender Champions Impact Group.

“ONR and the group’s other 23 members are dedicated to addressing gender issues by taking collective actions to advance gender equality in the nuclear regulatory community.

“We are currently considering our respective approaches to see where we can learn from each other.”

The IAEA Conference was divided into three parts - international organisations’ perspective, learning lessons and the path forward.

Key themes that emerged from the conference included the following:

  • The reinforcement of the importance safety culture to high standards of nuclear safety
  • The need for a 'continuous improvement approach' towards nuclear safety, whilst being clear on the need to judge when safe is safe enough
  • The desire among regulators to consider a common approach for the assessment of new reactor technologies
  • The need to support countries embarking on nuclear power programmes
  • The need to improve how national regulatory bodies communicate with the public and stakeholder groups to build increased trust and confidence in our regulation and the standards of safety achieved by the industry
  • The role of effective decision making during an emergency response to ensure the protection of the public and workers