Mark Foy, the Office for Nuclear Regulation’s (ONR) Chief Executive and Chief Nuclear Inspector, and Jane Bowie, ONR’s Director of Regulation for New Reactors represented the UK at the 51st International Nuclear Regulators Association (INRA) meeting in Canada.
INRA is made up of nine member countries – Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States – with the heads of their respective regulatory bodies in attendance.
The association, established in 1997, exists to exchange regulatory policy, good practice, and emerging challenges, with the aim of furthering nuclear safety and security standards on a global level.
Alongside a series of updates from each member country, sharing experiences on current issues, the meeting heard from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the head of Ukraine’s national regulatory body about the situation in Ukraine. This allowed INRA members to consider areas of potential joint effort and the future impact of the conflict on nuclear safety.
Recognising the global appetite for the deployment of Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technologies, the meeting considered members’ latest positions with regard to SMRs and innovation, and the meeting agreed a joint statement on SMRs and international collaboration.
The meeting also heard about the Ibero-American Forum of Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Bodies, recognising the effectiveness of the group as a collaborative effort supporting existing and embarking countries in developing legal and regulatory frameworks for nuclear and radiation safety.
INRA members visited the Cigar Lake Uranium mine and the McClean Lake Milling Operation in Saskatchewan, and the Darlington Nuclear Power Plant in Ontario. The former presenting a unique opportunity to gain an insight into the start of the fuel cycle, and at Darlington the benefits of a full scale mock-up facility to inform the refurbishment of the four NPP units.
Of specific interest to INRA members was the operators’ commitments to build and grow working relationships with indigenous communities and how they work in partnership with these communities to build positive mutually beneficial and respectful relationships.
Mark Foy said: “The annual meeting is an excellent opportunity to enhance working relationships between the heads of the world’s nuclear regulatory bodies as we discuss the potential future challenges facing national regulators and the industry.
“This INRA visit to Canada was a unique chance to see the early part of the fuel cycle and the steps being taken to ensure safe stewardship of these sites and their hazards. It was also an opportunity to understand how the operators in Canada and the Canadian regulators work with the indigenous communities to establish effective relationships.
“Connecting with like-minded regulators who are progressing SMR assessments and others that are considering SMR deployment, exploring options for closer working and collaboration, was also particularly timely for ONR.”
International engagement is important to ONR’s regulation as ONR seeks to influence the development of international standards and guidance for nuclear safety, security and safeguards, enhancing its reputation as a world-leading regulator.