An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said the operator of Unit 1 and 2 of the Saeul Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in the Republic of Korea has demonstrated commitment to operational safety, for example by using portable backpacks to monitor environmental radiation in case of a radiological emergency. The team also encouraged the operator to continue improvements in areas such as risk prevention during maintenance work.
The Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) concluded an 18-day mission to the Saeul NPP on 17 November, previously called the Shin Kori NPP. The mission, which focused on two of the plant's four units, was carried out at the request of the Government of the Republic of Korea.
OSART missions aim to improve operational safety by independently assessing safety performance against the IAEA's safety standards, by proposing recommendations and, where appropriate, suggestions for improvement. Safety is an essential element during commissioning and the subsequent safe operation of a nuclear power plant.
The plant, owned by the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Ltd. (KHNP), is located close to the city of Ulsan in country's south-east. Unit 1 started commercial operation in 2016 and Unit 2 in 2019. The two 1400 MW pressurized water reactors are amongst 25 operating nuclear power reactors of the Republic of Korea. Nuclear power currently contributes about 28 per cent to the country's electricity. It is also constructing three additional reactors.
The 13-member team comprised experts from Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Romania, South Africa, Sweden, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, and two IAEA officials.
'We observed that the plant's senior leadership team is constantly reinforcing the value of safety as the top priority,' said team leader Fuming Jiang, Head of the Operational Safety Section at the IAEA. 'The team also proposed areas in which improvements can be made to further elevate the plant's safety performance.'
The team identified good practices to be shared with the nuclear industry globally, including:
The plant has implemented the use of portable backpacks to monitor environmental radiation in case of radiological emergency.
The plant has adopted a mobile water purification system to provide filtered sea water for accident management.
The plant has developed a smart personal radiation dose management system to improve radiation worker knowledge and effectiveness of dose management.
The mission also provided recommendations and suggestions to further improve operational safety, including:
The plant should improve the development and oversight of field operating staff's performance, for example, by more effective coaching.
The plant should improve the work practices and risk prevention during the conduct of maintenance activities at the plant.
The plant should improve the implementation of its operating experience feedback programme.
Ko Hyo-Je, Station Director of Unit 1 and 2 of Saeul NPP said: 'This OSART mission, which was conducted in the Republic of Korea for the first time in 15 years, provided a beneficial opportunity to identify gaps between KHNP's operation process and the IAEA Safety Standards. We will strive to enhance the safety and reliability of the plant by addressing the recommendations and suggestions.'
The IAEA's first-ever OSART mission was also conducted in the Republic of Korea in August 1983. 'The current mission, conducted close to the 40th anniversary of the OSART programme, marks a major milestone in the history of the programme, its evolution and contribution to operational safety performance improvement in Member States,' said team leader Fuming Jiang.
The team provided a draft report of the mission to the plant management. They will have the opportunity to make factual comments on the draft. These comments will be reviewed by the IAEA and the final report will be submitted to the Government of the Republic of Korea within three months.
General information about OSART missions can be found on the IAEA website. An OSART mission is designed as a review of programmes and activities essential to operational safety. It is not a regulatory inspection, nor is it a design review or a substitute for an exhaustive assessment of the plant's overall safety status.
Follow up missions are standard components of the OSART programme and are typically conducted within two years of the initial mission.
The IAEA Safety Standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements, and guidance to ensure safety. They reflect an international consensus and serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.