Nuclear safety regulators and inspectors require rigorous training, particularly as their workload increases with new nuclear reactors opening and older ones going through decommissioning. While nuclear safety is a national responsibility, the IAEA provides support to regulators worldwide. The recently issued Handbook for Regulatory Inspectors of Nuclear Power Plantsis part of the IAEA’s continued effort to develop training materials to support regulatory inspection programmes.
“The handbook is a very practical document. It offers general guidance on how to plan, prepare and conduct regulatory inspections. It also offers some guidance on how to evaluate inspection findings,” said Greg Rzentkowski, Director of Nuclear Installation Safety at the IAEA. “It is designed to support regulatory inspectors in developing and enhancing their competencies to inspect nuclear power plants.”
The handbook was developed to support newer inspectors, who take around two years to train, and also to help veterans of the field mentor the next generation of inspectors.
Enhancing inspection methods
The handbook covers methods to plan and perform inspection activities on safety-related systems, structures and components, evaluate the safety significance of inspection findings and document the results. Specific inspection considerations, such as radiation protection, weather-related hazards, fire protection and corrective action programmes, are also presented in the publication.
The handbook also outlines how to use a graded approach to select systems, structures and components for conducting inspections at nuclear power plants.
Though the publication focuses on the inspection of operating power plants, it also describes how inspection techniques can be applied to facilities under construction, pre-operational testing and decommissioning. Also covered are general techniques that may be applied to other types of nuclear facilities. “Technologies may change, but the fundamentals of an inspection process remain the same,” said Tim Kobetz, the IAEA Nuclear Safety Officer in charge of the publication. “Planning, interviewing, report writing, communications are key tasks for inspectors worldwide. You have to have on-the-job training and soft skills like effective communication – and this handbook helps with both.”
The handbook will be a useful component for IAEA workshops and training activities aimed at enhancing inspection procedures and safety measures at nuclear power plants, as well as a refresher for experienced inspectors, Kobetz highlighted. Twice per year, the IAEA conducts a two-week inspector training at Austria’s Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant and in other nuclear installations such as research reactors, and this handbook will now be included as a component of the training material.
The IAEA collaborated with nuclear regulators from Belarus, Canada, China, Finland, Pakistan, Poland, South Korea, Spain, the United States of America and Viet Nam to develop the content of the handbook.