Remarks by CNSC President Michael Binder at the 2015 WANO Biennial General Meeting

CNSC President’s remarks for the WANO Biennial General Meeting Regulator Panel on Current and Future Issues

Opening remarks for:

Michael Binder, President

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) Biennial General Meeting

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Check against delivery

Good morning. Bonjour, Mesdames et Messieurs. Je suis très heureux d’être ici ce matin.

My name is Michael Binder, and I am the President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

I would like to thank Duncan Hawthorne for inviting me to this panel. And I would also like to recognize the other Canadian nuclear power plant executives in the audience who regularly appear in front of our Commission in public hearings.

I would also like to recognize Tom Mitchell for his leadership, both in the Canadian and world nuclear power industries – especially during its response to Fukushima.

I am pleased to be on this panel with Mr. Jan Bens and a very close colleague, mon ami M. André-Claude Lacoste.

Post-Fukushima reflections

It has been over four years now since Fukushima.

Reviews have been conducted by operators and regulators around the world, action plans have been implemented, and the IAEA has recently released its final report.

I cannot think of a better time to start reflecting on what has been accomplished, and to start assessing whether or not we have done everything possible to avoid another accident.

Country Level

At the country level, much has been accomplished. Across the globe, swift actions by nuclear states were taken following Fukushima to improve the safety of their nuclear facilities.

In Canada, shortly after the accident, the CNSC created a Fukushima Task Force and launched a review of all our major nuclear facilities, to confirm that they were able to withstand and respond to beyond-design events.

The CNSC also launched an external advisory committee, to independently assess our processes and responses in light of the lessons learned from Fukushima.

The CNSC was also the first regulator to request that a review and assessment of our response to Fukushima be part of the IAEA’s IRRS mission follow-up of Canada.

Out of the recommendations from the task force and the two reviews, we established an action plan with four key categories:

  • strengthening defence in depth
  • enhancing emergency response
  • improving the regulatory framework
  • enhancing international collaboration

The action plan also included measures to enhance communication and public education.

The four-year action plan will be completed by December 2015, and I have been told that, to date, our operators have invested over $500 million dollarsFootnote 1 on these improvements.

And we are not stopping there. Canada is currently hosting an OSART and an IPPAS mission; and, at the CNSC, we are conducting a review of our methodology for developing multi-unit site probabilistic safety assessments.

Canada is not alone with these types of undertakings.

We should all be proud of the efforts made by all nuclear states in the wake of the tragedy at Fukushima.

International

At the international level, much has also been done since Fukushima to enhance nuclear safety.

WANO

At WANO, your efforts to strengthen existing programs must be commended and should be a model for similar efforts at the regulatory level.

By making site reviews mandatory every four years ‒ and by making the corrective actions compulsory ‒ you have taken significant steps forward.

Nothing like this exists at the international regulatory level.

IAEA

At the IAEA, in the immediate aftermath of Fukushima, the Action Plan on Nuclear Safety was adopted, and Member States have been implementing its extensive provisions ever since.

Its report on the Fukushima Daiichi Accident was released last month. The report is the result of years of work by experts from many countries and international organizations.

The report will hopefully help all current and future Member States to improve nuclear safety.

Convention on Nuclear Safety

At the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the lessons learned from Fukushima have also been built into the CNS framework, further ensuring that what we learned will never be forgotten.

Such concerns have also been addressed in many other fora ‒ in the INRA, NEA, WNA, WENRA, etc. New ideas and actions were, and are, being implemented.

Overall

Given all this work that was, and is, being done, I believe that nuclear facilities are safer today than they were prior to the accident at Fukushima.

However, we need to keep asking ourselves: have we done enough? Are the measures we have put in place sufficient to prevent any future accidents?

Questions to ask ourselves

I was asked to speak today on the challenges I see facing nuclear safety.

While we have come a long way in improving nuclear safety in Canada ‒ what keeps me up at night is uncertainty as to whether other nuclear states have done enough to improve safety.

Today, our global regulatory safety framework is based on the principle of national regulatory sovereignty. There is no global regulator that keeps nuclear states accountable and committed to nuclear safety. Every country’s safety regime is based on its own regulatory framework.

The question is: can we afford to leave each country to its own safety framework without any requirement for accountability to the international community?

If we do:

  • Who will point out significant deficiencies or non-compliance(s) with internationally approved practices?
  • Who will publicly point to a country whose regulator is not independent?
  • Who will tell a new entrant country that they are not ready to become a nuclear country?

So far, these issues have not been discussed in public, only under the WANO process or under the IAEA voluntary reviews.

IAEA

I do not think that we can continue to accept the IAEA as a consultant ‒ a reactive advisor on nuclear safety ‒ that responds to Member States only by invitation.

The world looks to the IAEA to ensure that the proliferation of nuclear weapons does not happen. The IAEA has a clear mandate to verify that Member States apply the safeguards requirements.  In terms of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the IAEA is the global regulator with extensive oversight and reporting responsibilities.

But this is not the case for nuclear safety.

I still regularly hear in Vienna that ensuring nuclear safety is the individual state’s responsibility.

This mantra of regulatory sovereignty has paralyzed the IAEA into thinking it does not have the power to publicize safety concerns.

But, even if the IAEA has no legal mandate to name and shame ‒ who is going to challenge the IAEA publicly to identify risks to nuclear safety? The IAEA cannot continue to ignore serious safety issues, if they are not being addressed by the  Member State.

Unlike WANO’s, the IAEA’s peer reviews are not mandatory and countries do not have to commit to following up on recommendations.

The CNSC is a big supporter of peer reviews – however, we will no longer participate in such peer reviews unless countries commit to following up on recommendations.

Even at the Convention on Nuclear Safety, non‑compliance or major deficiencies are never escalated to the highest level of Member States’ governments.

I believe all of this has to change.

The IAEA must play a stronger role: it must become the global nuclear safety regulator. Just like in nuclear safeguard, nuclear safety must be grounded in global accountability with reports on nuclear safety issues to the IAEA Board of Governors and/or to the UN.

We need to press for greater balance between safety and safeguards. And I do not believe that the IAEA needs yet another legal convention to allow it to act as the global nuclear regulator. I believe that heads of state already assume that the IAEA will make sure that nuclear safety deficiencies are being identified and reported to the proper authorities.

WANO

However, the IAEA is not the only organization well positioned to expose safety concerns ‒ whether about a regulator or an operator.

At WANO, you are well positioned to raise issues – not only about your members, but also about regulators. A weak regulator is not your friend; in fact, it is your enemy and could be a weakness in the overall defence in depth.

Your peer reviews are effective at identifying gaps with your fellow operators ‒ but what do you do if a member operator does not adopt the recommendations made to address them?

Where you find repeated non-compliance with your own requirements, it is imperative that you raise your concerns with the respective government, at the highest level, and with the IAEA.

IAEA and WANO

Ultimately, the IAEA and WANO have to get together to raise areas of concern, including non-adherence to good practices and weak safety cultures.

I do not know what mechanism we need to make this happen, but I do know that another accident will hurt us all. We need to work together to do everything we can to prevent this.

The MOU signed by your organization and the IAEA is a good start, but does it go far enough?

When it comes to nuclear, it has to become okay that everyone is looking at everyone else.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I want to thank WANO for all it has done and all it continues to do in advancing global nuclear safety.

We have done much since the Fukushima accident, but we cannot let ourselves slip into complacency. We cannot wait for the next accident to occur.

We face new challenges ahead ‒ we have countries entering the nuclear world for the first time, we have some regions expanding rapidly, and we have other regions entering a decommissioning period. We also see new turnkey model proposals for the construction and operations of power plants in emerging nuclear countries, which could bring new challenges.

It is time to move into a new era of openness, transparency and global accountability in the international oversight of nuclear safety.

Thank you. Merci beaucoup.

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Comment by Mr. Duncan Hawthorne. CNSC Public Meeting, August 20, 2014, pp. 151‒157.

Return to footnote 1 referrer