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Strengthening global nuclear safety by working together

The Office for Nuclear Regulation’s (ONR) Chief Executive and Chief Nuclear Inspector Mark Foy attended two international events to consider ways of further strengthening nuclear safety worldwide.

Firstly, Mark joined nuclear regulators from across the globe for the two-day European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group's (ENSREG) annual conference in Brussels.

Part of the conference focused on nuclear safety in times of major crises, such as the war in Ukraine, or a pandemic.

During the conference, Mark was a panellist for the discussion session ‘New Designs: Regulatory Challenges’ and he attended the ENSREG plenary meeting that followed the conference.

Mark said: “I’d like to thank ENSREG for organising the annual conference and bringing together like-minded nuclear regulators from across the globe to help enhance safety and security across the nuclear industry.

“It was good to meet so many fellow nuclear regulators face-to-face and discuss key topics facing the industry such as progressing Small Modular Reactors (SMR) assessments, with a view to furthering international harmonisation and working closer together in the future.”

Other areas of discussion at the conference included radioactive waste management, the long-term operation of nuclear power plants, and nuclear safety research.

During the ENSREG conference Mark also held a meeting with Oleh Korikov, the head of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU).

Mark said: “The meeting allowed us to strengthen the relationship between our two organisations around nuclear safety, which is especially important during these challenging times.”

Mark also attended the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative in Vienna.

He was joined by Steve Vinton, ONR's Technical Division Director, for the inaugural meeting in Austria, which was led by the IAEA's Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi.

The goal of the newly formed initiative is for the effective global deployment of safe and secure advanced nuclear reactors, with the international nuclear community working increasingly together.

Aims include developing common regulatory and industrial approaches to SMRs and fostering innovation and continuous improvement, with the IAEA bringing together top-level decision makers from governments, regulators, designers, technology holders, operators and other international organisations and associations.

The agency plan to establish roadmaps for technology holders and operators to develop more standardised industrial approaches for design, manufacturing, construction, commissioning, and operation of SMRs.

There will be renewed efforts for increasing regulatory collaboration towards global harmonisation in the pre-licensing process and international certification of selected SMR designs - with an agreed expectation of the high levels of safety and security for such advanced designs.

Mark added: "ONR is pleased to be part of the global Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative from the outset.

“This will see us working together with fellow national regulators to develop international standards and guidance that will enable international collaboration and adoption of harmonised approaches to the regulation of SMR technologies and the benefits that this will provide."