Source: International Atomic Energy Agency – IAEA
In early 2020, the IAEA published a technical document providing practical advice to regulators on how to effectively manage their experience in regulating facilities and activities. This document detailed the specific challenges regulatory organizations faced and identified opportunities in existing processes — such as quality and knowledge management — that can contribute to building effective arrangements to ensure that robust safety regulations are in place. The IAEA document also offers formulas and mechanisms to help regulatory bodies in becoming more efficient at their job: regulating.
“Continuous improvement is a key goal for regulators and there should be no room for complacency in achieving it,” said Isabel Villanueva, Head of the Cabinet of the Secretary General in Spain’s Nuclear Safety Council (CSN). “Most regulators routinely examine a wide range of internal and external sources to explore possible improvements in their regulatory framework and processes. It is time to take one step forward and transform this into a systematic practice well integrated with all the other processes of the management system governing the exercise of regulatory functions and organizational practices.” Efforts to assess gaps and weaknesses to strengthen coordination among national stakeholders contribute to establishing a robust regulatory framework, she added.
The discussions also covered how regulators of countries embarking on a nuclear power programme or considering building other nuclear installations can benefit from exchanging experience with more experienced regulators to address their challenges in building a safety infrastructure.
“The regulatory framework in my country has considerably evolved over time,” said Solomon Getachew, Director General of the Ethiopian Radiation Protection Authority. “In the early days, progress was slow, but managing our own regulatory experience and using the experience of others, for instance through Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) missions and other IAEA advisory missions, helped us very much to mature and grow fast as a credible regulatory organization.”
There is no one approach that fits all. The tools developed by the IAEA focus on providing practical advice to support countries in deciding whether their regulatory organization has effective mechanisms to draw lessons from its own experience.
For example, when something has gone wrong, the tools help regulators ask themselves: would the error prevent us from achieving the regulatory objective? Does this affect other processes in our regulatory activities? Do the attitudes, values and beliefs held and shared by our staff positively or negatively impact the achievement of the regulatory objective?
Participants highlighted some of the areas in which IAEA support can be particularly useful for regulators, such as determining practical criteria for screening safety concerns raised by staff, reinforcing existing or establishing new international cooperation mechanisms to facilitate reporting and sharing findings and lessons learned, developing appropriate training activities for staff and fostering good practices.
The IAEA is developing practical mechanisms, such as IAEA-facilitated workshops to guide regulators in setting appropriate mechanisms to manage experience effectively and to train staff in the use of these mechanisms.