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    IAEA International Conference on Effective Nuclear Regulatory Systems

    From April 8 to 12, 2013, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) will be hosting the International Conference on Effective Nuclear Regulatory Systems. Nuclear safety and security regulators representing governments from around the world routinely review issues that are important to the global nuclear regulatory community. This conference, organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and held in Ottawa, will evaluate and assess ways of further improving the effectiveness of regulatory systems for facilities and activities, taking into account lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident.

    Conference summaries:

    April 9, 2013

    Session 1 – Regulatory Lessons Learned and Actions Taken

    Nuclear power plants are safer as a result of lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima reactor in Japan, say industry regulators. The 2011 accident was the catalyst for extensive reviews of plants worldwide, both at the national and international levels. The reviews produced many action plans for change, which include enhanced regulatory regimes and legislation, along with physical changes to facilities to further fortify them against disasters, experts told an international gathering of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    A panel discussion involving senior regulators from seven countries showed that, despite different regulatory approaches, everyone reached common conclusions about the lessons learned following the Fukushima accident. While the 2011 incident produced changes to guard against external events, it also led to general improvements to strengthen accident prevention and lessen the impact in the rare event that an accident occurs.

    Action plans in several countries on the panel, including Korea, Japan, France, Germany, China and the Russian Federation, contain measures such as:
    •mandated periodic or ongoing evaluations of safety standards to measure protection from external risks
    •stronger communications among stakeholders, nationally and internationally
    •enhanced emergency response and mitigation plans
    •physical plant improvements to improve such things as mobile power supplies and flood protection capabilities
    •increased independence of regulators

    Richard Meserve, Chair of the International Nuclear Safety Group, noted that Fukushima reinforces that nuclear safety standards are continually changing to broaden the scope of protection. Standards have evolved from the early years when regulator and industry attention focused on plant design and internal operation, to the newer practice of also guarding against external forces, Meserve told the conference. However, he also summed up the sentiment of several panelists when he asserted “you can’t prevent everything so you need robust means to mitigate.”

    Session 2 – Waste Management and Spent Fuel Safety

    Global leaders in permanent storage of radioactive waste shared their progress today at the International Conference on Effective Nuclear Regulatory Systems.

    Radioactive waste is defined as any material (liquid, gaseous or solid) that contains a radioactive nuclear substance for which there is no foreseen use.

    Finland is the only country worldwide that has found a permanent solution to long-term disposal. The Scandinavian country is currently building a deep geological repository called Onkalo, a series of underground tunnels that have been under construction for almost a decade and are designed to store waste for 100,000 years.

    Sweden has also taken many steps in this direction – it has identified a site for a repository and is seeking regulatory approval. Johan Anderberg, Director of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, told participants at the IAEA conference that long-term storage has been studied for more than 30 years in his country. Anderberg advised countries that are less advanced in the process to take their time and do it right by building public trust and ensuring storage safety for centuries to come. Finland has been examining storage even longer than Sweden has – Finland began the process in the 1970s.

    Other countries have also worked for decades on the challenge of finding long-term storage. These countries include Canada, which is in the research phase. Waste from Canada’s nuclear power plants — enough to fill six hockey rinks to the top of the boards — is currently held in interim storage at each site. Canada is among several countries that are studying the prospect of building an underground repository, a safe, long-term storage site in sedimentary rock.

    Don Howard, Director of the Waste and Decommissioning Division of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, stressed that extensive consultation with potential host communities, the public and Aboriginal groups, is paramount. He said that 21 Canadian communities have come forward seeking information about hosting a site.

    Ken Nash, President of Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization, noted that Canada, like other nuclear producers, does not want to leave future generations to deal with waste that the current generation has created. Nash advised countries that are considering getting into nuclear power to start immediately on plans to dispose of spent fuel.

    Additional Information
    •Read the IAEA article: Transforming Experience Into Regulatory Improvements

    April 8, 2013

    The Fukushima Daiichi accident loomed large as representatives from more than 50 countries gathered in Ottawa for a global conference on nuclear regulatory systems.

    The four-day meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the first major international gathering on nuclear regulatory systems since the 2011 nuclear accident in Japan. At this meeting, senior nuclear regulators and other stakeholders are focusing on ways to improve regulation, further develop emergency management systems, and instill public trust in nuclear regulators worldwide.

    Almost 300 participants are taking part in the conference on effective regulatory systems, being held at the Chateau Laurier hotel. In his video address,IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stressed that restoring public confidence in the nuclear industry is of the utmost importance. The disaster at Fukushima – along with steady growth in nuclear power worldwide — has sparked increased scrutiny of the world’s 427 reactors.

    All five speakers at the conference opening plenary asserted a need for continued safety vigilance. In the conference’s first panel discussion, Michael Binder, President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, said that Fukushima “changed our nuclear safety paradigm” and that “nuclear regulators must continue to respond aggressively to lessons learned.”

    The conference continues to build on the lessons from Fukushima. Conference president Tero Varjoranta noted that “nuclear safety is better today than it was a year ago” as a result of the accident and subsequent industry and regulatory soul-searching. China, for instance, is among the countries that have beefed up nuclear safety plans by doing such things as strengthening flooding-defence and mobile-power systems.

    The major focus of the gathering is on how to improve regulatory systems. Conference participants suggested there is also a need to put more emphasis on communication and emergency planning.

    The concept of expanding the role of the IAEA to a centralized regulatory body was proposed. However, international experts agreed the current nation-based model is best suited to the 159 member countries.

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