Nuclear regulators and safety culture: Reinforcing the link

WGSC Group Photo Oct 2022

Delegates to the NEA Working Group on Safety Culture (WGSC), including Chair Nobuhiko Ban, Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan, meeting in person during their 11th biannual meeting, 18-20 October 2022

It is essential for organisations in the nuclear community to cultivate healthy safety cultures and leadership to support the safe and sustainable operation of the facilities that operate under their jurisdiction. Regulatory bodies deeply influence the safety culture of the organisations which they regulate and oversee through many channels.  These channels include strategic processes, oversight activities and working relationships.

The Nuclear Energy Agency Working Group on Safety Culture (WGSC) gathered delegates from 11 countries, including a representative from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for its biannual meeting on 18-20 October 2022. The Working Group's Chair Nobuhiko Ban, Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan, attended the meeting, alongside William D. Magwood, IV, NEA Director-General, and Nobuhiro Muroya, NEA Deputy Director-General for Management and Planning.

NEA Director-General MAGWOOD, NEA Deputy Director-General MUROYA, NRA Commissioner BAN

(Left to right) NEA Deputy Director-General for Management and Planning, Nobuhiro Muroya, WGSC Chair and Commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority of Japan (NRA) Nobuhiko Ban, and NEA Director-General, William D. Magwood, IV.

Established in 2017, the WGSC facilitates the exchange of information and experiences among nuclear regulators to improve safety culture within the nuclear energy sector, assess their influence on licensing and consider the implications for regulatory effectiveness.

In 2021 the WGSC published a report containing methodologies for self-reflection and self-assessment of the regulatory body’s safety culture, as well as lessons learnt and best practices to inspire managers to develop regulatory excellence in this area. The WGSC is currently building upon this work by examining the impact of the regulatory body on the licensees, and vice versa, from a safety culture perspective.

Two WGSC task groups have conducted interviews with stakeholders on various aspects of this issue, including leadership, to advance this work. During the October meeting, the WGSC discussed the results from two rounds of recent data collection that included nearly 50 interviews and focus groups conducted with regulatory bodies and nuclear operators in 13 countries – in the process identifying best practices where regulators had clearly had a positive impact on safety culture and achieving safety objectives.

WGSC meeting

Based on the data analysis conducted during a series of workshops in June and October 2022, the group is developing a model of the regulatory impact on safety culture and identifying behaviours, competencies and other characteristics needed by leaders at all levels of a nuclear regulatory body to ensure a healthy safety culture. The results of the analysis to date were discussed at the October meeting in Paris and the outputs, to be finalised in 2023, will include practical guidance and examples.

The three-day meeting included presentations from members on safety culture developments from within their organisations or countries. Members highlighted the recent Country-Specific Safety Culture Forum (CSSCF) held in Ottawa, Canada on 7-8 September 2022, an initiative which examines how nuclear safety culture is affected by the national cultural context.

For more information on the activities of the WGSC, visit here. 

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