Remarks by Rumina Velshi at the 2023 Conference on Effective Nuclear and Radiation Regulatory Systems
Thank you for your kind introduction. It’s a pleasure to be here today.
I want to begin by congratulating the organizers of this conference on their tremendous work. This has always been – and must continue to be – an important forum in advancing nuclear safety and regulatory excellence.
I am struck by the timeliness of this year’s theme – Preparing for the Future in a Rapidly Changing Environment.
This is indeed a time of change and challenge.
Around the world, nations are motivated to accelerate the fight against climate change.
They are also increasingly concerned with the need to achieve energy security.
More and more, nuclear is being seen as a critical tool in achieving these goals.
In this changing environment, the onus is on the global nuclear community to work together to enable the deployment of a nuclear fleet that is safe, reliable and effective.
To fulfill this responsibility, we need to encourage the international standardization of designs – and we need to pursue and achieve greater harmonization of regulations across borders.
The future is coming. It is a future of great potential – but one that may also bring new pitfalls and obstacles.
It is imperative that we be open to doing things differently – while never losing sight of our focus on safety.
Let there be no doubt: The forces at work today will shape the nuclear industry – and the energy industry – for decades to come.
How will we react?
Back home in Canada, I frequently remind my people of our role: As regulators, we exist to protect people from risk, not from progress.
We have a responsibility to be ready for whatever technology comes our way.
And we have a duty to keep pace with changing times across society.
For example, the evolving nature of information sharing and communications has led us to the moment when our regulatory community is expected to be more transparent in its operations, more inclusive in its structure, and – I would argue – more global in its vision.
By this, I don’t mean the surrender of regulatory sovereignty. Far from it. Nations must make their own decisions in their own best interests.
But there exists today both an opportunity and – in my view – an obligation to work together more than we have in the past.
To share ideas, perspectives, and experiences – for the benefit of one and all.
Let’s be candid about what lies ahead: Change is inevitable. Our requirements and methods for licensing large reactors are not likely to be entirely applicable for what’s coming next.
Many of our organizations will soon be asked to review new projects that use novel technologies and different methods of operating.
We will have to adapt or reimagine a number of our methods.
And that process will be smoother and easier if we are willing to share our experiences as we go through it – and learn from others along the way.
We must never take our focus off the imperative for safety. But at the same time, we can’t move so slowly that we as regulators become an obstacle to progress.
We certainly do not want to be an impediment to the successful deployment of SMRs, or any new technologies.
In some ways, we can perhaps learn from the extraordinary global collaboration that was set in motion by the COVID-19 virus – and the ensuing race to develop a vaccine.
The pandemic represented a generational challenge for scientists, policy makers, and regulators.
It challenged them to think outside the box …
… to seize new opportunities to coordinate and cooperate …
… to leverage or build on reviews and findings made by others …
… to form new partnerships and develop new ways of working …
… all while maintaining a heightened awareness of the need to protect people from risk, and for sovereign governments to ultimately make their own decisions.
The rapid development and approval of several Covid vaccines was a triumph of science, innovation and ingenuity.
But it was also a reminder of the value of good, old-fashioned collaboration – and of our collective ability to adapt to new challenges.
In the coming age of SMRs, we need to adopt this kind of mindset – collaboration, agility, and a commitment to do our work as efficiently as possible in the public interest.
And, of course, regulators can’t do it alone.
Governments must put in place clear nuclear policies and commit to working with partners to ensure adequate international oversight, timely decisions on waste management issues and adequate resourcing of the regulator.
If nuclear is to play a greater role in a greener future, many allies and champions will be required. And the CNSC is ready to be at the forefront – both within Canada and as part of the wider global community.
If we succeed together in our goal, it will be in part because we’ve come to grips with how the nuclear industry is evolving.
The focus is shifting – from domestic to global.
For decades, it has been governments who’ve taken the lead role in developing reactors for national use.
These reactors would be licensed and operated within a country’s boundaries – and they were decommissioned when the time was right.
The reactors of tomorrow are being designed by international corporations – for potential deployment around the globe.
They will be licensed by multiple regulators. They will be built by partnerships of multiple entities. They will be operated by multiple utilities.
There will be benefits for the industry for this approach, but it will create new ways of working for the regulator. Contractor management will be a key focus for regulators when the licensee is contracting out many of the key aspects. Regulators will have to approach nuclear supply chain differently. Reactor components and possibly fully fueled reactors will be manufactured and constructed in one jurisdiction and shipped to another. This will require multinational regulators to work together in both licensing and compliance ensuring efficient regulation while maintaining safety.
We need to confront these issues head on.
And we need to do so together.
The more we harmonize our approach, the more we standardize designs, the more we collaborate on these issues, the better and more efficiently we’ll be able to avoid unnecessary review and approval delays and be able to create an environment where SMRs can be both safely and efficiently deployed.
I’ll give you an example – the memorandum of cooperation between the CNSC in Canada and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the United States.
This agreement has been a game changer. It is guiding our collaborative efforts on SMRs.
Together, we’re sharing regulatory insights from technical design reviews. And we’re exploring the potential for common guidance in how we review new-build licence applications.
Our partnership is demonstrating that there are real and practical benefits to collaboration across borders.
Just look at what’s happening right now near Toronto, Canada.
Ontario Power Generation has selected GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 for its proposed nuclear project at Darlington.
That technology has been simultaneously going through our vendor design review process – and the pre-application process in the United States.
This coordinated process has proved beneficial.
We’ve been able to leverage and expand our knowledge and understanding.
Indeed, we recently published our fourth report on joint evaluations.
It goes without saying that we have always worked well with our American colleagues. But this new spirit of cooperation has taken that relationship to the next level.
We look forward to even closer collaboration as we move toward the licensing phase.
I must say that this is especially heartening for me on a personal level.
When I began my term at the CNSC over 4 years ago, I highlighted my intention to both identify and pursue opportunities for closer collaboration with international partners.
It is very satisfying to see these cooperative efforts pay dividends.
And I’m confident that this collaborative spirit can and will take hold in other parts of the world.
Just last year, the IAEA launched a Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization
Initiative of its own.
The goal is to leverage the leadership and expertise of governments, regulators, designers, operators, and many others – all with an eye to advancing standardization and harmonization.
Under my leadership, the CNSC is actively participating in the initiative – and I encourage you all to follow suit.
Working together more closely makes for more efficient and effective regulation.
It reduces duplication of effort.
And it leads to better, quicker, and more informed decisions – all without surrendering regulatory sovereignty or compromising safety.
It is a best practice that should be implemented widely across the nuclear industry.
I will leave you today with three questions that I urge each of us to consider as we participate in this week’s sessions.
First: What practical and immediate steps can we take to contribute to global efforts in developing harmonized approaches to regulatory regimes?
Second: How can we improve implementation of the IAEA’s safety standards to ensure a robust and safe global deployment of new technologies?
And third: What best practices can we share that will help advance the harmonization of regulations and standards?
Let us always remember: Each of us here today will play a key role in building the shared success of tomorrow. So, let’s get started. There is no time to waste.
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