Different Interpretations of Regulatory Requirements

Cooperation in Reactor Design Evaluation and Licensing – Licensing & Permitting Task Force

First published December 2021

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Fundamental safety requirements for nuclear energy have been agreed at an international level through the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) safety standards. Various international initiatives have attempted to further harmonize the interpretation of these high-level standards into specific national regulatory standards and guidance. Yet, different versions of the same reactor design continue to be built in different countries.

This report outlines this variability by reviewing the different interpretations of fundamental safety requirements when reactor designs have been licensed outside their country-of-origin. The report shows that the nuclear industry is being held back by national approaches to regulation, turning what should be Nth-of-a-Kind projects into First-of-a-Kind ones.

This is not solely a regulatory challenge. If we are to take advantage of the opportunities emerging reactor designs provide, it is essential that governments, regulators, and industry alike take on board these lessons, drive greater collaboration, and implement a suitable framework that would allow a more streamlined approach to regulation. The report recommends a framework under which harmonized approaches to licensing could be developed, and identifies areas, such as defence-in-depth and postulated initiating events, that would be the major focus of harmonization under such a framework.

This report has been produced by the Licensing and Permitting Task Force with support from both the Small Modular Reactor Task Force and Digital Instrumentation & Control Task Force of World Nuclear Association’s Cooperation in Reactor Design Evaluation and Licensing (CORDEL) Working Group.