Pilot virtual school on nuclear and radiological leadership for safety

The links between an organization’s safety culture, leadership and decision-making, as well as the role of IAEA safety standards in providing a strong framework for ensuring a high level of nuclear safety were among the key topics covered during a four-day Virtual School pilot project on nuclear and radiological leadership for safety.

The school – for the first time in virtual form – took place from June 28 to July 1, with the participation of 16 young nuclear professionals from across the IAEA Secretariat. The lessons learned from the pilot will be used to improve the course, which the IAEA will then offer to countries in virtual form and in person.

The school aims to sensitize nuclear professionals at the beginning or in the middle of their career to the role of leadership in nuclear and radiological safety, the safety leaders of tomorrow. First held in a traditional physical format in 2017, the course enables participants to broaden their practical understanding of safety leadership through interactive exercises and case study analysis and provides them with tools to maintain and improve safety in nuclear installations in their daily work.

This school encourages the leaders of tomorrow to foster the safe and secure implementation of peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology, ”said Lydie Evrard, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. “This goes a long way in raising awareness of the benefits of applying IAEA safety standards. “

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began to hamper international travel, eight training programs had been held in France, Mexico, India, Turkey, Brazil, Pakistan, Morocco and Japan, with a total more than 235 participants from 65 countries.

The virtual version of the school was developed in response to the pandemic by experts including senior operators, regulators and behavior scientists. Each element of the program refers to the IAEA’s general safety requirements. In hands-on exercise sessions called “Nuclear Power Plant Outage Challenges”, participants learned the importance of focusing on safety even when there is pressure to complete a task quickly. They learned how a strong internal safety culture can prevent accidents.

Skills such as good internal and external communication, active listening, encouraging feedback and maintaining an open mind were highlighted as essential factors in being a good safety leader. Participants also learned about the effect of sudden stress on performance ability and its impact on decision making. They learned the importance of remaining calm, following security processes, and promptly informing supervisors of measures taken to ensure security.

“In an organization, anyone who has strong ownership and commitment to safety is a safety leader, regardless of their role in the hierarchy. The goal is for all participants to finish school with this ingrained in their minds, ”said Shahid Mallick, IAEA Head of Program, Strategy and Coordination Section. “This internally-hosted virtual school has provided a useful platform for everyone involved to gain a better understanding of how we can tailor our efforts to help countries around the world strengthen their security leadership.”

A mock press conference on a leak of radioactive material into the environment allowed participants to engage in active stakeholder role play and highlight the value of fact-based communication and research. a consensus.

The school was originally developed in response to a gap highlighted in the IAEA Director General’s 2015 report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the need for a systems approach to nuclear safety, and is co-funded by the European Union.

Said Rayan Dankar, a participant from the IAEA Emergency Response Center: “I learned a lot about the different steps you can take to become a leader in safety. I learned a lot from the thoughts and experiences that experts and participants shared, about the importance of IAEA safety standards, and how open communication and trust are vital in supporting efforts to strengthen security.

Perry A. Thomasson