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Nuclear safety issues discussed in the ENSREG conference

On June 20-21, 2022, the 6th conference “Nuclear Safety in Europe”, organized by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG), was held in Brussels to discuss the issues relevant to European and worldwide nuclear safety regulators.

The issue of ensuring the safety of Ukraine's nuclear installations due to the military aggression of the Russian Federation against the country were discussed in the conference. The participants of the conference expressed support for people of Ukraine and staff of the Ukrainian Nuclear Safety Regulatory authority (SNRIU), who have to perform their duties in very difficult war conditions. One of the biggest issues facing SNRIU is safety supervision of the Zaporizhzhia NPP. The site of this NPP and the town of Enerhodar, where the workers live, are controlled by the armed forces of the Russian Federation, which prevents SNRIU staff from carrying out inspections and on-site verification of safety requirements. It was repeatedly emphasized during the conference that civilian nuclear installations are not designed for hostilities and can therefore under no circumstances be the target of or be in the area of hostilities. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is in permanent contact with the SNRIU and provides all possible expert assistance in the field of nuclear safety and security, including the necessary technical support. The European Union and other countries are also making important contributions to this assistance.

The first session of the conference focused on countries' experience in ensuring nuclear safety during a pandemic. One of the main task of operating organization of nuclear power plants has been to ensure a sufficient number of staff who directly control the operation of nuclear power plants and their systems. During the pandemic there were no cases where nuclear power plants had to be shutdown due to staff shortages. Another important topic is assurance of the provision of external technical assistance to nuclear power plants. The participants of the conference shared their experience that restrictions during the pandemic necessitated adjustments to maintenance schedules, it was difficult to perform major repairs or modifications in a timely manner, but it was emphasized that the safety level of nuclear power plants was not decreased during the pandemic.

The second session of the conference focused on the public participation in the processes related with radioactive waste management and the long term operation of nuclear power plants. It was emphasized that it is very important to listen to the expectations of the public and to explain provided information properly. The public participation should not be seen as a formality, but as an opportunity to improve the quality of safety related documents and decisions.

The third session of the conference focused on regulation challenges related to safety assessment and authorization of the Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). The participants of the conference agreed that cooperation between regulators in the safety assessment of SMRs should be encouraged, proposed SMRs technology solutions should be based on proven technology, and a dialogue between SMRs developers and regulators should be initiated as soon as possible to discuss the safety objectives for SMRs and the ways in which to achieve them. During the conference it was emphasized that issues of the spent fuel and radioactive waste management should not be forgot in developing SMRs.

The fourth session of the conference focused on the key topics for nuclear safety research. Discussions highlighted that research should pay attention to safety issues of existing nuclear power plants, such as improving the quality of safety justification reports, as well as developing new generation reactors, such as assessing reliability of passive safety systems, and investigating the use of new materials in the nuclear power.

More than 235 participants from various organizations attended in the 6th ENSREG Conference – nuclear safety regulators, operating organizations of nuclear installations, non-governmental organization, the European Commission, IAEA and research centres. The representatives from the Office of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania, state enterprise Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant and State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate attended in this conference.


Link to the video recordings of the ENSREG conference: ensreg.eu/ensreg-conferences