INTERNATIONAL WORKSHOP ASSESSED
NUCLEAR REGULATORY EFFECTIVENESS
industry representatives, governmental officials and representatives from
public interest organisations experts met in Paris at the end of June
under the auspices of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) to discuss regulatory
effectiveness including its characteristics and ways to develop and measure
it. The main objective was to improve understanding of regulatory effectiveness
in relation to nuclear installations, and to share experience on how to
enhance it. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Serge Prętre, Director of the
Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (HSK).
Nuclear regulatory effectiveness
was discussed from the viewpoints of industry, government, public perception,
and regulation. Because regulatory effectiveness plays a critical role
in the safety, operational performance and economics of the nuclearregulated
industry, its success may be measured through an assessment of industry
operating experience and data. The Workshop concluded, in particular,
that a free and open dialogue between the regulator and the industry plays
a vital role in maintaining regulatory effectiveness.
From a government viewpoint,
the current environment which necessitates both openness and transparency
presents new challenges to regulators., at a time when the funding levels
of national government programmes in several OECD countries, both in nuclear
regulation and in nuclear safety research, continue to be reduced. Dr.
Agnes Bishop, President of Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada, stated,
"Our decision-making process must be free of undue political interference,
and there must be an effective separation between the functions of the
regulatory body and those bodies concerned with the promotion of nuclear
energy". It was also noted that there is a need to ensure that government
agencies will be able to fulfil effectively their safety responsibilities
with reduced resources. in the new economic and regulatory environment.
A consensus emerged on the need for regulators to adjust to the requirements
of government programmes while at the same time maintaining a neutral
role in national energy policy questions.
In many countries there
is insufficient interaction between regulatory bodies and the public for
a variety of reasons. In those countries where there is already an active
interface, it may take different forms. Mr. Colin Duncan, Director of
Public Affairs of British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL), pointed out that credibility
and trust are essential factors to develop and maintain, especially with
respect to an "emotional" issue such as nuclear power. Dr. Jill
Lipoti of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection stated
"the public wants a simple, clear, unambiguous message from a trustworthy
spokesperson". Providing the public with information about the role
of regulatory bodies in ensuring nuclear safety is a key responsibility
of such bodies, which requires adequate funding. Furthermore, beyond information,
which is a one-way street, is the need for a real dialogue between regulatory
bodies and stakeholders. The workshop participants noted that there is
a need for real dialogue between regulatory authorities and stakeholders.credibility
of the regulator is a function of both his openness and strict objectivity.
It was also concluded that this topic merits further discussion and thus,
it endorsed the organisation, in 2000, of another workshop by the NEA
on interfacing with the public.
The actual experiences
of regulatory authorities in enhancing effectiveness and efficiency was
reviewed, including management methods, planning, procedures, training,
etc. In particular, the identification of specific attributes of regulatory
effectiveness and how they can be measured was a key topic. Dr. Bishop
noted "…it is often difficult to attribute good industry performance
to the actions of the regulator. Is the industry doing well because of
the regulator, or despite the regulator? Is a particular licensee performing
well because it is a good operator, or because it is well regulated?"
The meeting reviewed the initiatives being undertaken by regulatory bodies
to look critically at their own methods in a rapidly changing environment.
The improving performance of the industry, along with results of numerous
recent reviews, show that, in general, regulators are effective and efficient,
but as Dr. Malcolm Knapp, Deputy Executive Director at the US Nuclear
Regulatory Commission pointed out " .. our efforts towards regulatory
effectiveness are very much a work in progress". He added that, while
striving for continuous improvement may not be explicitly regarded by
some as an attribute of regulatory effectiveness, continuous improvement
is a major goal at the NRC.
An additional area of
importance noted was assuring nuclear safety competence into the 21st
century. As Dr. Bishop stated, "…we have noted a distinct lack of
interest among young people in the whole area of nuclear technology,….
What effect will this have on our regulatory effectiveness 10 or 20 years
down the road? …how can the regulator attract and retain competent staff?"
These questions must be addressed to ensure regulatory effectiveness over
the long term. The participants endorsed the upcoming NEA workshop on
this topic in October.
National and international
fora such as this workshop provide a valuable medium for furthering the
The proceedings of the
workshop on nuclear regulatory effectiveness will be published by the
Nuclear Energy Agency.