International cooperation is crucial to ensure the safety of national nuclear programmes around the globe, and this is particularly so when countries are introducing nuclear power for the first time. Today, the Plenary of the Regulatory Cooperation Forum (RCF) discussed how the newly released 2020-2024 Strategic Plan can best support such newcomer countries in coming years.
“The Forum provides a unique environment where its members can directly connect and share experiences and best practices for pursuing a nuclear power programme,” said Nader Mamish, RCF Vice-Chair and Director of the International Programs Office of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “Such engagement supports our common goal of strengthening the global nuclear safety and security framework – something at the forefront of all of our minds during this [64th IAEA] General Conference.”
Nuclear safety is the responsibility of individual countries and requires established regulators with adequate competence, independence and authority to oversee nuclear operators. To help nuclear regulators in the growing number of countries introducing or considering nuclear power, such as Belarus, Jordan, Nigeria and Poland, navigate this, regulators from countries with established nuclear power programmes are stepping up support to their peers through the RCF.
“With the development of the RCF Strategic Plan, we will be able to build upon the Forum’s past successes by focusing on maximizing sustainability and ensuring the RCF remains effective in an increasingly complex nuclear landscape,” said Mamish.
International cooperation for comprehensive safety
Speaking to the Plenary, experts from Ghana, Pakistan and Russia reaffirmed the importance of cooperation and sharing information and experience. By enabling this information exchange and collaboration, a high level of nuclear safety consistent with the IAEA Safety Standards can be achieved.
“On the development of regulatory infrastructure for nuclear power in Ghana, we are eager to cooperate and exchange information with the regulatory authorities of other countries and relevant international organizations in the realm of nuclear safety, nuclear security and safeguards,” said Emmanuel Ampomah-Amoako, Director of Nuclear Installations at the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Ghana. “Through this cooperation, national experts are being trained, and draft regulations on nuclear safety, security and safeguards are being reviewed based on the best practices – all of this contribute to ensure safety in nuclear power in Ghana.”
Offering support and guidance in navigating national regulatory frameworks and ensuring safety standards are met is crucial for a country beginning to implement a nuclear programme. Pakistan turned on its first nuclear power reactor in 1971. With 50 years of experience, the country’s experts have provided technical and scientific support as well as fellowships and various technical visits to the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, the Moroccan Nuclear Security and Safety Regulatory Regime and ten officials from Malaysia in 2019 alone.
“The experience of the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority has been used to develop and implement training materials for the IAEA to assist countries embarking on their own nuclear programmes in areas such as developing safety regulations and legislative and regulatory frameworks,” said Naveed Maqbul, Director General of Technical Support at the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority. “We have also contributed to various IAEA training courses, workshops and peer review missions as experts, and organised scientific visits and fellowships to continue to build our national capacity.”
Russia will remain active in regulators’ training and the sharing of safety regulations during the lifecycle of a power plant. “Within the areas of our RCF cooperation such as technical visits and workshops, we also largely contribute our experience in the areas of nuclear facility siting, construction, commissioning and operation,” said Irina Sokolova, Head of the International Relations Department at the Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service of Russia. “Exchanging experience is very beneficial for training inspectors, and we provide the opportunity to participate as observers in the inspections of Rostechnadzor to facilitate this training.”
What is the RCF?
The Regulatory Cooperation Forum (RCF) is a member-driven forum comprised of nuclear power regulators that promotes the sharing of regulatory knowledge and experience through international cooperation and collaboration using the IAEA Safety Standards as the foundation.
The Forum involves countries with advanced nuclear power programs, those embarking on nuclear power and countries with smaller programs considering expansion. The Forum currently consists of 26 countries and three international organizations – the IAEA, the European Commission and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
“The Agency will continue to support the RCF as both a provider [of services] and as the secretariat,” said David Senior, who runs the Regulatory Activities Section at the IAEA. “We will continue to utilize existing support activities focused on the RCF Strategic Objectives and provide more practical and user-friendly assistance through the ‘Generic Roadmap for Licensing the First Nuclear Power Plant’ including the publication of a series of handbooks.”