Faced with the Covid 19 epidemic, ASN adapts its working methods so that it can continue to perform its duties
Faced with a constantly changing health situation, ASN continues to adapt its working methods, by limiting physical contact while continuing to provide oversight of nuclear facilities and activities.
Adaptation to the health situation
As part of its activity continuity plan, ASN is limiting movements by its personnel and opting for home-working, providing everyone with the necessary technical resources. Today, virtually all ASN staff are working from home. When their physical presence is required in the ASN premises or those of the organisations being inspected, this is done in strict compliance with the barrier and social distancing measures defined after consultation with the Committee for Health, Safety and Working Conditions (CHSCT) in order to comply with the health rules in force.
Maintaining ASN’s duties
With regard to the nuclear industry, ASN has decided to maintain on-site inspections if they cannot be performed remotely and provided that all health safety measures are adhered to. For their part, the remote inspections primarily entail the examination of documents concerning routine operations (periodic test records, operating documents, etc.), usually accompanied by audio-conferences with the licensee; ASN also uses digital technologies for remote examination of reactor operating parameters.
A significant share of the inspections comprises remote examination of documents and prior discussions with the licensee, followed by on-site inspections. Therefore, of the 53 inspections already performed in the first two weeks of November, 36% were completely performed on site, 14% were completely performed remotely and 50% involved a combination of the two.
With regard to the medical centres, ASN first of all checks with the activity managers that the inspection is compatible with the organisation put into place by these centres, given the context of the health crisis. Consequently, most of the inspections have been postponed to 2021 and a few have had to be cancelled.
Moreover, ASN’s investigation work is continuing normally, together with IRSN. This is notably the case for the fourth ten-year periodic safety review of the EDF NPPs.
Finally, ASN has an on-call system enabling it to deal with any emergency situation.
Summary of the inspections conducted since the beginning of the health emergency
Following the Government’s decision to impose a lockdown last March, ASN suspended its on-site inspections, while retaining the possibility of conducting such inspections if needed. Therefore, between 15 March and 15 May 2020, 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. 26 inspections were conducted remotely during this period.
With regard to basic nuclear installations, oversight and inspections targeted operational activities (operation of reactors, periodic tests, etc.), in order to take account of the significant reduction in maintenance work on the facilities.
These inspections have revealed no deterioration of safety or of worker radiation protection. More specifically, both remote and on-site inspections confirmed that EDF and Orano were able to take appropriate steps to deal with the health risk (barrier measures, prevention plans) while maintaining the required level of safety.
During the period after the lockdown was lifted (mid-May to end of October), ASN continued to prefer home-working for a large share of its personnel. It also reinforced its on-site inspection actions, in addition to its remote-inspections. During this period, the total volume of inspections returned to the level at which it stood prior to lockdown. To date, of the 1,900 inspections initially scheduled, 1,241 have been performed. The decision was taken to cancel certain inspections in the medical sector to avoid exacerbating the pressure the hospitals were already experiencing owing to the health crisis; the postponement to 2021 of certain reactor outages or of certain industrial activities in the BNIs, also related to the health crisis, justifies the cancellation of certain inspections initially scheduled for 2020.
The follow-up letters for the inspections performed remotely are published in the same way as for on-site inspections.