It is essential that organisations in the nuclear community have healthy safety cultures and cultivate leadership for safety to support the safe and sustainable operation of nuclear facilities. Regulatory bodies deeply influence the safety culture and the organisations they regulate and oversee through many channels, from leadership and strategy to routine oversight activities and working relationships.
On 5-7 April 2022, the NEA Working Group on Safety Culture (WGSC) held its biannual meeting to advance work on safety culture and leadership in nuclear regulators. Established in 2017, the group facilitates the exchange of information and experiences among nuclear regulators to improve their safety culture, address their influence on the safety culture of licensees, and consider the implications for regulatory effectiveness.
In 2021, the WGSC published a report containing methodologies for self-reflection and self-assessment of the regulatory body’s safety culture, as well lessons learnt and best practices to inspire managers to develop regulatory excellence in this area.
The WGSC is building upon this previous work and is now examining the impact of the regulatory body on the licensees, and vice versa, from a safety culture perspective. During the most recent meeting, delegates from 17 countries on four continents, in addition to representatives from the International Atomic Energy Agency, shared and discussed initial results from pilot interviews. Additional data collection and analysis is planned, with a report expected following the conclusion of the international, collaborative research in 2023.
The group is also advancing a task on leadership for safety culture within the regulatory body, and the interviews conducted during the pilot phase of the aforementioned research project included questions designed to gather data for this purpose as well. The delegates had previously surveyed existing leadership frameworks in use by nuclear energy regulators and identified commonalities and gaps. The interview data gathered in early 2022, as well as further interviews and focus groups to be conducted later in the year will be analysed to identify behaviours, competencies, and other characteristics needed by leaders at all levels of a nuclear regulatory body to ensure a healthy safety culture. The final output, to be prepared in 2023, will include practical guidance and examples.
The three-day meeting included presentations from members on significant safety culture developments in their organisations or countries. A special highlight was a session by Cornelia Ryser from the Swiss Federal Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) on “Safety-II”-oriented oversight in the area of human and organisational factors (HOF). New theoretical and conceptual ideas in the HOF field are being incorporated along with regulatory learning from the Fukushima Daiichi accident to develop a new oversight approach designed to improve resilience and safety culture. Finally, the WGSC meeting also featured an update from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on the upcoming Country-Specific Safety Culture Forum (CSSCF) to be held in Ottawa in September 2022.