The challenge to harmonise safety requirements

Plants, nuclear reactors as well as waste facilities, have been constructed individually and they meet safety requirements in different ways.

One way is not necessarily better than the other. Therefore safety judgements require a thorough understanding of how various safety factors interface and integrate to a whole. They require an in-depth knowledge of safety related technical and physical issues, as well as of design details, of each nuclear facility. It is equally important to be well aware of the culture in which the plant is operated. This knowledge of individual technical and cultural issues as they apply to each plant, is fundamental for someone who takes on the responsibility to regulate and supervise nuclear safety. Such knowledge exists today with national nuclear regulators.

Essential input towards maintaining and enhancing a high level of safety derives from that information and experience is exchanged from research activities, from events and from day to day operation of an international, a regional as well as of a national level. In addition, national regulators must have the power to promptly react to new safety concerns that are identified. To support the national regulators in their oversight there has to be a national legal framework.

Several countries in Europe use the IAEA Safety Standards as a basis for formulating national regulations. These Standards have to be seen as good practices or tools for benchmarking. They can not be used as national legal requirements without appropriate adaptation. 

Harmonisation of safety approaches in Europe

After establishing WENRA two working groups were launched to harmonise safety approaches between countries in Europe - Reactor Harmonisation Working Group (RHWG) and Working Group on Waste and Decommissioning (WGWD). The aim was to continuously improve safety and to reduce unnecessary differences between the countries. It was recognised at the time when the working group on reactor safety was established that no specific indication was identified that the safety level reached with the most recent national requirements in WENRA countries was insufficient.

The mandate of the working groups was to analyse the current situation and the different safety approaches, compare individual national regulatory approaches with the IAEA Safety Standards, identify any differences and propose a way forward to possibly eliminate the differences. The proposals were expected to be based on the best practices among the most advanced requirements for existing power reactors and nuclear waste facilities.

In March 2010 WENRA decided to initiate work concerning benchmarking of European inspection practices for components and structures of nuclear facilities and created The WENRA Inspection Group (WIG), which concluded its work in 2012.