It is widely recognised that nuclear regulation has a goal to ensure the safety of operating nuclear power plants. However, nuclear regulators also work on certain aspects of the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle, including the management of radioactive waste, the decommissioning of nuclear facilities and the management of legacy sites.
The NEA Regulators' Forum (RF) was established in 2001 to support the work of member countries in precisely these aspects.
During the past two decades the RF has facilitated multilateral communication and information exchanges among regulators to refine regulatory systems in relation to radioactive waste management, decommissioning and legacy management activities. Initially operating under the umbrella of the NEA Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC), since 2019 the RF has been jointly overseen by the RWMC and the NEA Committee on Decommissioning of Nuclear Installations and Legacy Management (CDLM).
On the occasion of the group's 20th anniversary, the NEA hosted an expert roundtable discussion on 8 October 2021 to reflect on twenty years of RF work and trace the evolution of the roles and responsibilities of nuclear safety regulators regarding the management of radioactive waste and decommissioning.
The event highlighted the contribution of key RF activities and achievements to global progress in the development of nuclear back-end programmes. Future prospects in this area and policy implications were explored by a panel of experts in a discussion hosted by NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV.
The panellists agreed on the need to strengthen capacity building activities and to attract the younger generation to the nuclear regulation field if the enhancement of nuclear safety in the is to continue in the future. The NEA is currently working on a variety of initiatives on nuclear education, including the Global Forum on Nuclear Education, Science, Technology and Policy, Nuclear Education, Skills and Technology (NEST) Framework and International Mentoring Workshops.
The discussion also touched on the role of the regulator in the development and optimisation of the national back-end programmes. The crux of optimisation often involves dialogue with stakeholders to achieve the best acceptable solution in light of constraints and other requirements, and regulators have to be a part of such dialogue. This topic will be further explored at the third NEA Workshop on Stakeholder Involvement to be held in 2022.