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ONR attends conference focusing on ‘Navigating the Nuclear Future’

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) attended the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 35th Regulatory Information Conference (NRC RIC) earlier last week in Washington.

ONR’s delegation was led by Mark Foy, our Chief Executive and Chief Nuclear Inspector, supported by Tanya MacLeod, Head of the Executive Support Office and Paul Shanes, Professional Lead for Cyber Security.

The annual conference brings together thousands of participants from across the globe, including regulators, government agencies, non-governmental organisations, academia, industry, media and members of the public, to discuss a broad range of topics in the fields of nuclear safety and security.

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Navigating the Nuclear Future’. Technical sessions at the conference included risk-informed and technology inclusive regulation, innovation, using and evaluating artificial intelligence, nuclear energy’s role in meeting energy demands, advanced reprocessing technologies, plus the challenges shared by regulators and industry around the recruitment and retention of staff.

Other sessions focused on licensing of new nuclear fuels and advanced reactors, innovative approaches to the security of advanced reactors, and new reactor siting.

The global nature of the conference provided the opportunity for discussions on international collaboration on assessment and licensing of SMRs. There was also a chance for the ONR team to hold bilateral discussions with each of the NRC commissioners on topics of mutual interest.

These bilateral discussions emphasised the importance of leadership and culture in meeting many of the challenges facing both organisations, alongside the need for international collaboration and regulatory innovation, adaptability and flexibility. They also highlighted that building trust through internal and external engagement is key to maintaining and strengthening the reputations of each organisation.

ONR’s Control and Instrumentation Professional Lead, Andrew White, participated virtually as a member of the technical panel on Regulatory Decision Making on Nuclear Systems Containing Artificial Intelligence.

While ONR’s Head of Advanced Nuclear Technologies, Tim Parkes also took part delivering a remote presentation about the common challenges faced by the industry in the regulation of new reactor designs.

Mark Foy said: “I am grateful to colleagues at the U.S. NRC for staging such a successful, well-organised event.

“Engaging with a diverse range of nuclear experts and senior regulators to discuss common challenges enables us to learn from the experience of others as we continually seek to improve, ensuring we can deliver our mission to protect society in an ever-changing environment.”

Tanya MacLeod said: “It is clear to me that many of the challenges facing ONR are shared with NRC and other nuclear regulators around the globe. Working together and sharing ideas and solutions will ensure our mutual success in meeting these challenges going forward.”

Paul Shanes said: “The ability to maintain a strong relationship with colleagues from other regulators is essential as we commit to working more closely to deliver efficient and effective regulation of the nuclear industry.”