Paris, 5 July 2002
An international gathering of high-level executives from nuclear regulatory organisations and nuclear utilities was held on 18-19 June 2002 in Paris, France, to foster a constructive dialogue between regulators and operators of nuclear installations in a number of key areas including market competition, asset management and the measurement and communication of safety performance. This International Forum on Nuclear Regulator/Licensee Interface Issues was jointly organised by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). Approximately 100 participants from over 20 countries attended.
Regulators and operators noted that the economic pressures of deregulation in electricity markets have led to greater focus on efficiency in plant operations which stresses the need to sustain efforts to maintain a good nuclear safety culture. It was clear from the discussions that market competition has created challenges to safety for both regulators and operators. Encouragingly, both sides see trends that deregulation can actually lead to better safety performance, but they also acknowledge the need for continued caution and vigilance in the future.
The session on asset management covered three distinct aspects: financial, physical and human. Concerns and challenges were addressed in each of these areas. Both sides stressed that one of the largest challenges in the future was to have reliable and adequately trained staff. Work is needed, both nationally and internationally, to sustain a skilled knowledge base. Doing so will be a key test of the success of joint efforts between regulators and operators.
Measuring safety performance was a more difficult area in which to achieve consensus because of the different approaches by each side. It was recognised that sharing of safety performance information would be greatly beneficial to both regulators and operators, especially in improving the effectiveness of their responses to events and thereby public health and safety. This is possible provided a firm understanding is reached on how the information is to be used by both sides. Open and clear communication with the public has been a priority and has been achieved by both parties. The remaining challenge is to ensure that not only are improved messages delivered, but that they are understood and believed.
The forum succeeded in initiating a consensus building process for regulators and operators for the first time in a truly international setting. The next step is to begin the work together to increase co-operation and develop common approaches, while respecting the independence of each party.
Concluding the final session, Dr. Alec Baer of Switzerland re-emphasised the sentiment of the meeting that coming together is a beginning, remaining in contact would be progress, and working together will be the demonstration of success. The conference had enlarged the scope of existing relationships between regulators and licensees from a national perspective to an international interface across borders.
The NEA will publish the proceedings of the forum along with a summary of the main results and conclusions in the autumn of 2002.