One of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority’s tasks includes regulatory supervision of all kinds of nuclear facilities. This involves follow-ups to ensure that the licensees comply with the relevant legislation and regulations governing nuclear safety and radiation protection. Our supervision involves inspecting facilities, performing surveillance activities, examining documents and considering applications as well as conducting integrated safety assessments of all installations.
As we exercise regulatory supervision of nuclear power plants and other nuclear facilities, we examine the compliance of licensees with the current legislation and regulations applied in the field of nuclear safety and radiation protection and look into how they follow these rules. The parameters of regulatory supervision enable us to demand specific actions and also give proactive guidance for the facilities’ safety work. We conduct follow-ups of events that occur at the facilities in addition to an annual integrated safety assessment of the respective facilities.
We exercise both regular supervision and enhanced supervision. Regular supervision involves our regularly surveying how facilities fulfil the requirements we impose for nuclear safety and radiation protection. Enhanced supervision involves placing a particular focus on a facility or certain aspects of an operation if we see signs of serious deficiencies in its activities. Our enhanced supervision often includes our requiring a facility to develop action plans that we then regularly follow up. We may also take particular actions if we discover particular problems.
We also exercise supervision of the extensive safety upgrades currently in progress at the nuclear power plants for fulfilment of the requirements imposed by the Authority. This supervision involves reviewing design solutions and analyses. We also follow up site modifications and rebuilding projects and look into how they are carried out at the facilities.
We have a special coordinator for each nuclear facility who coordinates our supervisory work at the facility. Four main methods are used in our regulatory supervision to check up on the facilities’ safety work:
- Compliance inspections
- Surveillance activities
- Follow-ups of events
Compliance inspections involve site visits to look into how the licensees fulfil legislative and regulatory requirements in various areas. We do this by interviewing personnel at the facilities and reviewing documents.
For each compliance inspection, we set up a team representing different competencies that complement each other depending on the inspection’s area of focus. For example, it is common for technical experts and behavioural scientists to work together during the inspections so that they are capable of taking into account how technical aspects of safety interact with human and organisational aspects.
If we discover deficiencies during an inspection, this could (for instance) lead to requiring the facilities to take certain actions and subsequently report the results of the measures to us.
Our surveillance activities involve compiling information about nuclear safety and radiation protection work at the facilities. We review reports, applications and other documents from facilities and conduct dialogue with personnel at the facilities and their senior management.
The information we gather as part of surveillance inspections gives us an understanding of the facilities’ nuclear safety and radiation protection work that can lead to additional inspections and reviews. Surveillance activities thus represent key input for the annual integrated safety assessment and for future supervisory work.
Our reviews involve analysing and assessing data, reports, notifications and applications from the facilities. These may relate to notifications concerning modifications at a facility or a change in the operations, reports on safety measures taken by a licensee or input for assessing the root cause of various events, etc.
Each year, many notifications, applications and reports are received from the facilities. We examine and select the ones needing a more in-depth review by our specialists. They could for instance have to do with a modification of major significance in terms of safety or a new unproven design solution. Another example is a large-scale reorganisation of the operations at a facility.
Follow-ups of events
Our regulatory supervision also encompasses follow-ups of events that have occurred at a facility and which the licensee is obliged to report. This also applies to cases where a failure has been discovered in a safety system as well as other deficiencies that are worth reporting from a safety perspective. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority has a special team representing different professional skills that reviews and assesses events in order to determine whether the facilities have investigated the cause of the failures and deficiencies and taken action to prevent their reoccurrence. The Authority also looks for common causes with earlier events that occurred at a facility to make it possible to identify recurring deficiencies in a certain type of component or in the method of working that may pose a safety problem.
We consider on a case by case basis whether an event or discovered deficiency implies that we must take further action. This could for example involve our performing new inspections and reviews or following up the event in some other way.
If an event is quite serious, we may launch a rapid investigation. This kind of investigation involves a team of around four persons visiting the facility to gain their own understanding of the situation. This investigation should be launched immediately once the event has taken place. As a rule, this means that the team leaves for the site the day after the event. Licensees are always responsible for identifying deficiencies themselves and correcting them after an event.
A rapid investigation gives the Authority key input for our assessments of the analyses, investigations and measures that must be performed by a facility before we can determine that safety is restored and the facility can resume operation.
Integrated safety assessments
Each year, we compile information and conduct an assessment of nuclear safety and radiation protection at all the facilities. This involves an integrated analysis of all the information we have from compliance inspections, reviews, surveillance activities and follow-ups of facility events. This not only gives us an overall understanding of the safety state, it also enables us to see patterns and signs of deficiencies that we were unable to discover from the separate elements of supervisory work. In this way, the annual safety assessment serves as support for our future regulatory supervision.
Every ten years, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority also conducts a more extensive overall assessment of all the facilities’ compliance with the requirements imposed by legislation and regulations as well as the facilities’ potential for continued compliance with the requirements over the next ten-year period. We also take into account progress in the sciences, technology and international safety standards as part of our overall assessment, which in this way can lead to requiring improvements in terms of nuclear safety and radiation protection. These improvements may relate to both facility design and operations.