Participation of the WENRA’s Chair and Vice-Chairs in the 2023 IAEA international Conference on Effective Nuclear Radiation Regulatory Systems held in Abu Dhabi (UAE)

Olivier Gupta, as WENRA’s Chairman, was invited as a key note speaker to participate in the 6th international Conference on Effective Nuclear Radiation Regulatory Systems organised by the IAEA in Abu Dhabi (UAE) from 13 to 16 February. The purpose of this conference, hosted by FARN, the regulatory body of the UAE, was to address regulatory experience, resilience and agility to respond to new and emerging challenges in a rapidly changing environment.

O. Gupta took this opportunity to present his views regarding the new and emerging challenges that regulatory bodies and other stakeholders have to face.

He mentioned that, after the post-Fukushima decade in which all stakeholders focused on safety and learning from the accident to improve safety, the context had changed and that, for many stakeholders, the primary focus may no longer be safety.

He noted that the current energy crisis, decisions on the life extension of nuclear power plants in some countries where shutdown decisions have been made, and the need for some countries to increase their energy independence, as the situation in Ukraine emphasised, could potentially put undue pressure and burden on nuclear stakeholders.

He referred to the WENRA statement of November 9, 2022 which highlighted the importance that energy policy decisions be taken in due time and remain stable in the long term, the prime responsibility of licensees to ensure safety and the regulatory bodies commitment within WENRA to work effectively and efficiently to make regulatory decisions in a timely manner.

He finally insisted on the fact that this new international nuclear context should be seen as an opportunity for safety. Taking the example of the increasing interest for SMRs worldwide, he highlighted the importance of in-depth technical dialogue between regulatory bodies and industry to set a high and industrially realistic safety level and agree on “how safe is safe enough” means for SMRs.

Mark Foy and Petteri Tiippana, WENRA’s Vice Chairs, were also invited to share their views during a panel discussion on leadership through new and emerging challenges. This was an opportunity to share experience on how to ensure regulatory resilience, better understand needs and way to adapt to unexpected challenges.