The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) hosted an expert panel last week to discuss the opportunities for the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry – part of our pledge to embrace innovation.
The event was organised jointly with the Advanced Nuclear Skills and Innovation Campus (ANSIC), who are based at National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL).
The discussion focused on proportionate regulation of artificial intelligence in nuclear, where it is in the interest of society and beneficial to the industry’s safety and security.
In our ONR Strategy 2020-25 document, we made a commitment to embrace innovation, new approaches and technologies in how and what we regulate and to share best practice case studies and encourage dialogue.
Last Friday’s session was an event linked to ONR’s newly established innovation hub.
AI could be used in the nuclear industry to simulate behaviour of reactors, inform reactor design, performance, safety and operation.
So, having a clear regulatory approach is important.
It also has potential benefits for nuclear power, including outage, maintenance, planning and inspection, nuclear security and radiation protection.
The technology is supported by global nuclear agencies for its “enormous potential to help accelerate their safe, secure and peaceful uses”, according to The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Members of last week’s expert panel sought to establish a roadmap for effective and enabling regulation of artificial intelligence in the nuclear sector.
The broad range of perspectives that were shared ensured representation across several industries, including nuclear licensees, academics, medical, healthcare, fusion, national laboratories, and regulators.
More than half of those who attended said their view on the regulation of AI had changed thanks to learning from the session.
This first meeting delivered clear outcomes, notably that licensees are providing examples of AI that will be suitable to take into sandboxing, including ONR’s new regulatory sandbox.
Sandboxing enables innovators to test and trial new solutions in a safe environment without the pressures of the usual rules applying.
In line with ONR’s commitment to enabling innovation, plans are in place for the panel to come together again in a few months.
At this point, the panel will select the examples of AI to take into ONR’s new regulatory sandbox.
David Smeatham, ONR’s Principal Nuclear Inspector and Innovation Lead, spoke at a recent Nuclear Engineering for Safety, Control and Security conference at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in Manchester.