On 14th and 15th November 2023, WENRA held its regular biannual plenary meeting in Paris.
This meeting, hosted in Paris by the French nuclear safety authority ASN, was an opportunity for the association to make significant decisions and address several important topics including the following.
WENRA new strategy and WENRA Terms of Reference
WENRA members approved the new WENRA strategy, expected to guide, from January 2024, WENRA and its working groups activity.
Considering the new context and emerging challenges to address, WENRA decided to prioritise its activity around of a limited number of strategic objectives: (i) the establishment of common safety requirements on major issues to be applied by each WENRA member, (ii) the establishment and adoption of good practices to regulatory cooperation for the review and assessment of new technologies, and (iii) the development of a common understanding or a WENRA position on challenging issues.
In addition, WENRA reviewed thoroughly its current Terms of Reference and endorsed a new version.
Based on the new criteria established by WENRA to clarify its membership, PAA, the Polish regulator which had, since it joined WENRA in 2008, the observer status, was granted the full member status, considering Poland is a European Union member state and has started the development of a nuclear programme.
In addition, NRA, the Japanese regulator, which had an observer status since 2016, was granted the status of associated member. WENRA members took into consideration the existing Japanese nuclear programme and the fact that NRA had confirmed, through active participation and positive contribution in WENRA meetings and working groups, its strong interest in WENRA activities and WENRA products, and its commitment to implement SRLs in the Japanese regulatory framework on a voluntary basis.
War in Ukraine
The acting chairman of the Ukrainian nuclear safety Authority (SNRIU) gave an update on the Ukrainian nuclear facilities safety. SNRIU also reported on its current regulatory activities to allow introduction of alternative nuclear fuel for VVER reactors to replace the fuel currently used and manufactured by the Russian Federation.
Implementation of SRL on sites
WENRA approved the RHWG report on the implementation status on the nuclear power plants of WENRA Safety Reference Levels (SRL) dealing with the design extension condition issue.
WENRA highlighted this significant achievement. It reminded that, if the implementation of SRL in regulatory frameworks of its member was an important objective, the ultime goal of developing and maintaining a set of SRL applicable to a given type of nuclear facility was the implementation on site.
The process implemented by the RHWG was recognised as valuable and as a key asset to reinforce the harmonisation of practices and improve the level of safety of the concerned facilities.
Policy discussion on SMR and safety objectives
WENRA hold a topical discussion about the safety objectives for small modular reactors (SMR). Based on an up-to-date knowledge and experience feedback on concrete SMR projects, WENRA confirmed the need to revise the current set of safety objectives for new reactors, to take into account the specific cases of SMR, and gave guidance to the RHWG for such revision
Topical discussion about fuel
In the framework of the discussions at the European level with regards to taxonomy and the the “accident-tolerant fuels” concept, WENRA discussed the challenges related to the development and licensing of new fuels.
Considering the various factors that have to be taken into account, WENRA highlighted that a time frame of 7 to 15 years was needed before introduction of new fuel types in reactors.
Stress corrosion cracking
WENRA endorsed the ad hoc group recommendations on intergranular stress corrosion cracks (IGSCC) with proposals in particular in the field of inspections to be performed on pressurised water reactors stainless steel welds, of monitoring of the parameters that may influence the development of IGSCC, of non-destructive testing methodology for the detection of IGSCC, of repairs and mitigations on IGSCC susceptible or affected welds, and of the design and manufacturing of stainless steel piping on new PWRs.
WENRA members were encouraged to implement this set of recommendations.
Change in WENRA Chairmanship
WENRA approved the nomination of Mark Foy, Chief nuclear inspector of ONR (UK) and current WENRA vice-chair, as the new WENRA Chair. Mr. Foy will be seconded in this responsibility by two vice-chairs: Olivier Gupta, director general of ASN (France), and Petteri Tiippana, director general of STUK (Finland), who keeps its former position of WENRA vice-chair.
This change was an opportunity for Mr. Gupta, who has been chairing WENRA since 2019, to highlight some key achievements of the period 2019-2023, in particular in the benchmarking and improvement of the existing sets of SRLs, the release of several common positions on current or emerging challenges, the improvement of WENRA governance, the clarification of criteria to enlarge WENRA membership, the action conducted by WENRA to support Ukraine, the strengthening of WENRA relations with stakeholders, the increasing of WENRA visibility in and out of Europe, and the preparation of a new strategy taking into account the new nuclear context.
At the meeting, the WENRA working groups (Reactor Harmonization, Waste and Decommissioning, and Research Reactors) as well as the Steering Group on safety reference levels reported on their activities.
WENRA approved the:
- RHWG report on the implementation status of WENRA Safety Reference Levels F4.08 to F4.13 and F4.15 to F4.18 at the nuclear power plants, reasonably practicable safety improvements and benchmarking;
- WGWD report on decommissioning safety reference levels;
- WGWD report on Waste and Spent Fuel Storage Safety Reference Levels.
In addition, WENRA confirmed that the ad hoc group formed after the Spring 2023 plenary would continue its activities to address issues and challenges in the field of human resources management, skills and recruitment.