Independent safety regulation has been a hallmark of the global nuclear power sector from its beginnings. Industry and government have long understood the importance of a predictable and adaptable regulatory structure and have worked co-operatively to ensure the safety of civilian nuclear energy throughout the lifetime of nuclear power projects – design, construction, operations and decommissioning.
Nuclear energy has benefitted from the adoption of new technologies and regulatory approaches developed by other sectors. Disruptive, innovative and emerging technologies from other industries continue to provide the civil nuclear industry with safety and economic benefits that support existing and planned reactors.
The deployment of advanced reactors incorporating emerging technologies is highly anticipated and will depend on regulatory frameworks that are appropriately positioned to independently analyse and evaluate the safety implications of the new technologies.
Innovation brings new and sometimes unknown risks, for example in the areas of digital instrumentation, data security and privacy. The adoption of new technologies in nuclear energy is also changing the business models that have historically governed the sector. While safety assurance is the primary objective of the regulatory authority, regulators often work at the intersection of safety and economics in that certain regulatory frameworks require a consideration of costs and benefits.
Regulators and industry should work together to protect the public from unnecessary risks while also enabling the benefits of innovation.
The lessons learnt from other sectors, which have managed both the regulation of innovative technologies and global harmonisation, are valuable for the nuclear sector as it is implementing advanced, disruptive technologies.