ASN makes an assessment of its oversight since the beginning of lockdown
New means of inspection
Following the lockdown decision, ASN decided to suspend its on-site inspections. It nonetheless retained the option of performing such inspections were they to prove necessary. Therefore, between 15 March and 15 May 2020 a total of 18 on-site inspections were carried out: twelve on safety and the possible consequences of the epidemic on the working of the facilities and six on labour inspectorate subjects.
With regard to the Basic Nuclear Installations, ASN's inspection procedures were primarily redirected towards remote monitoring and inspection. In order to take account of the significant reduction in maintenance work on the facilities, this monitoring targeted operational activities (operation of reactors, periodic tests, etc.). To do this, ASN used new digital technologies, such as real-time and off-line remote-examination of the physical operating parameters of the reactors. Some of these innovations will be retained permanently. The follow-up letters for the inspections performed remotely are placed on the asn.fr website in the same way as for on-site inspections.
In this context, ASN maintained its high degree of stringency with respect to the nuclear licensees. The implementation of these procedures enabled installations monitoring to be maintained at an appropriate level, given the safety implications and the technical context of the facilities. At this stage, these inspections have revealed no lessening of safety or of worker radiation protection. More specifically, both remote and on-site inspections confirmed that Orano and EDF were able to implement appropriate organisations to deal with the health risk (barrier measures, prevention plans) while maintaining the required level of safety.
In addition, ASN continued with its investigation duties and the first part of the draft resolution concerning the generic part of the periodic safety review for the 900 MWe reactors was in fact seen through to completion.
In the medical field and to enable the health professionals to focus on the health response to the epidemic, ASN has suspended its inspections in medical facilities carrying out nuclear activities, barring certain exceptions. However, it is giving priority to dealing with licensing applications for the use of equipment or premises needed to manage the epidemic (use of nuclear medicine scanners for diagnostic purposes for example).
Oversight prospects for the coming weeks
Although ASN will be continuing to prefer remote working for a significant share of its personnel, it is also reinforcing its on-site inspection work, in addition to the remote-inspections, and is adjusting them to the context and the ramp-up in nuclear activities.
In the NPPs, ASN will be running coordinated safety and labour inspectorate inspections. It is also preparing its participation in the forthcoming ten-yearly hydrotests for the reactors concerned; in this respect it took part in that concerning the Chooz B1 NPP on Friday 15 May 2020.
The ASN teams are currently reviewing the 2020 inspection programme in order to determine the inspection priorities for the coming months, including issues linked to the COVID-19 epidemic. In this context, particular attention will be paid to organisational and human factors.