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ONR's Mark Foy appointed new WENRA Chair

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) this week attended the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA) Autumn 2023 Plenary meeting, where Mark Foy, ONR's Chief Executive and Chief Nuclear Inspector, was appointed its next Chair.

Mark has assumed the role from outgoing Chair Olivier Gupta, the Director General of the French nuclear regulator Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (ASN).

ONR's attendance at WENRA aligns with its international strategy, enabling ONR to effectively engage and influence globally and contribute to developing high standards of nuclear safety. Participation promotes collaboration and learning from others, while also supporting countries to achieve high standards of safety, security and safeguards.

At the three-day gathering in Paris, a new WENRA strategy and Terms of Reference were approved with full support from members, who prioritised WENRA's work around three strategic objectives:

  1. Establishing common safety requirements on major issues that will be applied by each WENRA member;
  2. Establishing and adopting good practices for regulatory cooperation associated with the review and assessment of new technologies; and
  3. Developing a common understanding or WENRA position on emerging challenging issues.

The plenary meeting focused on a variety of topics including safety standards for Small Modular Reactor technologies and updates on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Also discussed were the activities of the WENRA Safety Reference Levels (SRL) steering group and the recent occurrences of reactor stress corrosion.

International perspectives about industry recruitment and skills management were shared to inform strategies to build and sustain resilient and capable workforces for the future.

In other business, WENRA approved the application for associate membership from Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), and Poland’s Państwowa Agencja Atomistyki (PAA) attended its first WENRA plenary meeting as a full member.

Speaking about his appointment as WENRA Chair, Mark said: "Being elected and trusted to be the Chair of WENRA by my counterparts is a humbling experience.

"WENRA has been at the forefront of establishing the highest standards of nuclear safety for over 20 years and I am committed to ensuring it continues to lead the way in nuclear safety standards during a period that will see significant change in the sector."

He added: "I was particularly pleased that WENRA members were able to approve the new strategy during this recent plenary, giving a clear mandate for the future."

In the margins of the plenary meeting, ONR agreed the renewal of an Information Exchange Agreement (IEA) with the Swedish Radiation Authority (SSM).

Mark signed the new agreement with Michael Knochenhauer, Acting Director General for the Swedish regulators. The IEA covering topics including siting, construction, operation, decommissioning, radioactive waste management and transport.

ONR enters IEAs with other international nuclear regulators to share information, experience and good practice, where it is believed to be mutually beneficial, and in the UK’s national interests.

Mark said: "Information exchange agreements are the foundation of our arrangements for cooperation with like-minded national regulatory bodies.

"SSM is an important international partner, and the renewed IEA is an essential building block to enable future collaboration, as we face similar challenges around SMRs, decommissioning, waste management and skills and capability."

Director General Michael Knochenhauer said: "SSM has had bilateral agreements with ONR for quite some time, and we value the benefits that this mutual cooperation can bring.

"We look forward to continuing to exchange views and experiences on issues of common interest, and right now SMRs are definitely one of them."

WENRA is an independent association of European national nuclear regulatory bodies. Its established network of senior regulators gives unique access to their extensive experience in nuclear safety.

This week’s plenary meeting was attended by around 50 delegates from 27 countries including representatives from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the USA.