ASN collaborates with many countries within the framework of bilateral agreements, particularly those signed with the regulatory bodies of France's neighbouring countries.
For many years now, ASN has maintained relations with its foreign counterparts, whether on a multilateral or a bilateral basis. One of the means used by ASN to strengthen its bilateral relations is the system of personnel exchanges, the aims of which are:
- to enhance the relations between the two nuclear safety and radiation protection regulatory bodies;
- to improve the quality of the work done by each of these two regulator, by enabling the staff on secondment to assimilate the experience and best practices of their foreign counterparts, so that their own regulator can benefit from them when they return and, by hosting foreign staff in turn, accepting an outside view of their own operations;
- to harmonise practices between regulators;
- and to promote the flow of information and technical exchanges.
A number of methods have been adopted for these exchanges:
- very short actions (one to two days) enabling us to offer our counterparts cross-inspections and joint emergency exercises: these consist in inviting foreign inspectors to take part in inspections or emergency exercises carried out by the inspectors from the country concerned.
- long-duration exchanges (about three years) in order to take part in the operations of the foreign nuclear safety and radiation protection regulators and gain an in-depth understanding of how they function. This type of exchange must obviously and, whenever possible, be reciprocal.
The long-duration exchange process must thus aim to ensure that the staff seconded take part in duties that are as operational and concrete as possible, on behalf of the host regulatory body. They must also make an effective contribution to understanding the nuclear safety and radiation protection organisation and practices in the country.
They must also help make the practices of their country of origin known in the host country, and allow the development of international exchanges in addition to the actions run by the “bilateral” official representatives from the International Relations Department.
With the agreement of the foreign nuclear safety and radiation protection regulatory body, the personnel on secondment may be asked:
- to facilitate contacts with the various French entities concerned by nuclear safety and radiation protection;
- to organise joint inspections or visits in France or in the country concerned.
Furthermore, the experience acquired over a number of years by ASN and its foreign counterparts shows that the inspector exchange programmes are an important factor in stimulating bilateral relations between nuclear safety and radiation protection regulatory bodies.
To date, long-duration exchanges have mainly been with the USA, the United Kingdom and Spain.