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Enhancing international relationships

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) last week took its place at the 66th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference with the global energy crisis, the advance of Advanced Nuclear Technology and the conflict in Ukraine all key topics on the agenda.

The IAEA conference provides an opportunity for representatives of Member States to come together on an annual basis to consider nuclear and radiological safety, security and safeguards and its effective regulation.

It’s also a chance for senior regulators and high-ranking officials from across the world to engage and for ONR to strengthen its relationship with these key stakeholders.

The conference was held at IAEA headquarters in Vienna from 26 to 30 September, with Mark Foy, ONR’s Chief Nuclear Inspector and Chief Executive accompanied by Donald Urquhart, ONR’s Deputy Chief Nuclear Inspector and Executive Director of Regulation.

Mark and Donald were supported in Austria by Paul Garesse, ONR’s Regulatory Technical Advisor, and Hugh Chalmers, ONR’s Safeguards and Security Inspector.

Mark said: “This year’s conference provided an excellent opportunity to engage with senior regulators and high-ranking officials from across the world to learn from their experiences and strengthen our relationship with these key stakeholders from the nuclear community.

“It was a very productive conference with a key topic of discussion being the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the risk to civil nuclear facilities.

“Other issues we focused on included resourcing and continued resilience of regulatory bodies, the global energy crisis, lifetime extensions for existing reactors, global new nuclear ambition including Advanced Nuclear Technology and Small Modular Reactors, and the desire for wider collaboration and cooperation between national regulators.”

During the conference Mark and Donald attended a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings with the following organisations:

  • The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency
  • The Australian Safeguards and Non-proliferation Office
  • The Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection in the Netherlands
  • The Polish National Atomic Energy Agency
  • The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • The European Union’s Deputy General, Massimo Garribba
  • Belgium’s Federal Agency for Nuclear Control

Mark also signed a new Information Exchange Agreement with the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission for the Republic of South Korea to enhance collaboration between the NSSC and ONR.

During the conference, Mark and Donald attended the 50th International Nuclear Regulators’ Association (INRA) meeting which was held at the Canadian Ambassador’s residence in Vienna.

Discussion at the meeting focused on nuclear radioactive waste management and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

INRA members also agreed to seek a review of the format and content of the three yearly review of the international conventions during next year’s Convention on Nuclear Safety, with the aim of ensuring it provides greater value and insight.

Hugh Chalmers, one of ONR's safeguards and security inspectors, presented at a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)-led side event at the conference entitled: 'The UK SSAC, One Year On: Lessons Learned and Future Challenges.'

It is now 21 months since the establishment of the UK's State System of Accountancy for and Control of Nuclear Materials (SSAC) when ONR became the state regulatory authority for nuclear safeguards after the exit from the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).

Hugh spoke about how ONR and the UK is using its expertise and experience to aid other IAEA Member States in their objectives to strengthen their safeguards regimes.

At the General Conference, ONR and other members of the International Nuclear Regulators’ Association (INRA) agreed a new joint statement about the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the risk to civil nuclear facilities.

It says: "We, the members of the International Nuclear Regulators’ Association (INRA), which includes the national nuclear regulators from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States, are gravely concerned about the current situation in Ukraine and the potential serious impacts on the safety and security of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, especially the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).

"Nuclear regulators play a critical role in ensuring that the appropriate standards of nuclear safety and security are achieved at nuclear facilities.

"INRA members are clear that Ukraine’s sovereign nuclear regulator should be given immediate, unfettered access to the ZNPP to enable it to effectively carry out its regulatory oversight role.

"INRA members fully support the IAEA’s recommendation, following its recent visit, that IAEA technical experts maintain a continued presence at ZNPP to support nuclear safety, security and safeguards objectives.

"We fully support the IAEA and will continue to work together with it to obtain accurate and up to date information on the nuclear developments in Ukraine.

"This information is essential for keeping the public informed with accurate and timely information.

"Finally, INRA members continue to offer their steadfast support to the Ukrainian nuclear regulator and commend all of its efforts to keep nuclear facilities in Ukraine safe and secure."