The Ministry of Energy (SENER), as head of the Energy Sector in Mexico, defines and guides the national policy on energy, including nuclear energy and radioactive waste management. Currently, there is one nuclear power plant in operation in México, Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant (LVNPP), with two boiling water reactors of 2027 MWth each. LVNPP is part of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), which has a total of almost 180 electricity generating plants. Although Mexican industry did not supply major components for the Laguna Verde NPP, Mexican companies undertook the civil engineering work and Mexican staff maintains the reactor and is trained to operate it at CFE´s full scope simulator. The installation is located in the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, 440 km from Mexico City.
The National Commission for Nuclear Safety and Safeguards (CNSNS) has been entrusted by law to enact a regulatory framework on nuclear and radiological safety, including waste, export and import and safeguards; and to look after its application. In doing so, the CNSNS has committed itself to apply safety and health protection measures recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to apply the regulatory standards of the country of origin of the LVNPP steam supply system (the United States). In 2007, the IAEA conducted an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission in México. Several suggestions and recommendations from this mission were addressed within this project. Furthermore, two of the planned measures to improve safety which were presented by CNSNS during the 2008 Convention on Nuclear Safety were taken into account in this project. Previously, Spain has cooperated on both issues with the CNSNS transferring the experience and knowledge as European country. México is participating in the Iberoamerican Forum of Nuclear and Radiological Regulators (FORO).
FORO has as main objective to promote a high level of safety in all practices using radioactive materials or nuclear substances in this region, encouraging the exchange of information and experiences among its members. The present project has been coordinated with efforts from the FORO group, in particular training activities. Within this context, the overall objective of the project was to develop and implement nuclear safety cooperation with CNSNS in order to enhance and strengthen the regulatory regime. The purpose of the project consisted in supporting the promotion of a high level of nuclear safety and radiation protection in Mexico by strengthening CNSNS internal structure through benefitting from the EU regulators experience and international practices. The specific objectives of the project were to enhance and strengthen certain aspects of the regulatory regime for nuclear safety in Mexico in accordance with international obligations and internationally accepted criteria and practice. Accordingly, the project was organized around the following five tasks:
- Task 1 - Establishment/development of an Action Plan for cooperation in the field of capacity building for the enhancement of the CNSNS including an overview of the present situation;
- Task 2 - Development and implementation of a quality management at CNSNS;
- Task 3 - Identification and implementation of a knowledge management strategy;
- Task 4 - Cooperation to update and strengthen the CNSNS training strategy and plan;
- Task 5 - Cooperation to enhance CNSNS integral safety assessment approach.
Task 1 As this was the first project of cooperation between CNSNS and INSC, this task laid the foundation for future cooperation. Together with CNSNS, the Contractor explored the needs and identified the priorities for future co-operation. The CNSNS strategic plan, action plan and cooperation plan with the EU were constructed with a sound strategic approach and a stringent and extensive method involving the organisation of three workshops in Mexico City.
Task 2 The objective of Task 2 was to establish a quality management system for assessment and verification of safety and regulatory activities (internal regulatory guides and procedures). Seven workshops in Mexico City, together with 12 videoconferences were conducted to support CNSNS in this task. The architecture of the quality system was established and then a Quality Manual draft was prepared, as well as the processes descriptions and technical procedures. Six core processes were identified: inspection, licensing, enforcement, safety assessment, regulatory framework and regulatory technical support and research. Finally, an external audit was conducted, leading to the successful certification according to the ISO 9001: 2008 standard.
Task 3 is intended to identify and develop a suitable knowledge management strategy for CNSNS. The original scope included the CNSNS strategy in the field of knowledge management, human resources planning, training needs and procedures and documentation processes for improving the knowledge management strategy, as well as the technical specification for a suitable state-of-the-art knowledge management system hardware and software. During the project implementation it was decided to focus the task efforts on a knowledge management system limited to only one of the regulatory functions, namely the inspections, by means of a pilot project that could be used later to expand and cover all other regulatory functions (licensing, safety assessment,enforcement, etc.). This was done through three case studies: the work flows, the digital archive and the database of competences. The development of a preliminary workflow for inspections (provision of description and elaboration of related diagram and process table) led to the definition of the digital archive in terms of the documentation used and produced in the process and to the definition of the competences required. In parallel with these case studies, a pilot knowledge management portal limited to the inspections function was implemented, based on SharePoint tool SharePoint.
Task 4 Using the results obtained by the previous task, the project team applied the IAEA's Systematic Assessment of Regulatory Competence Needs methodology (SARCoN) to ensure a thorough identification of competences needed to support all CNSNS regulatory functions. A previous existing study carried out by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) covering only the Nuclear Safety Division was used as a primary input, and extended to cover all other organisational units at CNSNS. The four main competence areas (quadrants) relevant for a nuclear regulatory body overseeing nuclear installations were reviewed: Legal regulatory and organisational basis; technical disciplines; regulatory practices; and personal and behavioural competences. This analysis resulted in a training catalogue, comprising 14 training modules grouped under the corresponding quadrant. The catalogue was then compared to the existing training courses, resulting in a training plan that specifies all required training courses, cost, duration and number of staff required to follow them. The project team prepared as well the specifications for a software that CNSNS would use to monitor the training plan, including functions like managing the registration of trainees, recording training history of employees, recording evaluations completed or providing statistics for feedback to management. However it was agreed that CNSNS should start the monitoring of the training plan with simple tools (general purpose spreadsheet or database software) and then improve them with added functions.
Task 5 Task 5 was intended to expand the applications of Probabilistic Safety Assessment (PSA) and severe accident simulation with best estimate codes in the safety assessments. The project team reviewed the existing CNSNS practice in this area, based on the use of RELAP software for thermo-hydraulic analysis and MELCOR for severe accident analysis. A comparison with best EU practice was documented in a gap analysis report, highlighting the good practices and recommendations on potential improvements. In particular, the project team recommended to take two high-level strategic decisions:
- To systematically use risk-informed, graded approach decision making (and thus require a full scope PSA for LVNPP, as well as defining PSA Level 1 and Level 2 acceptance criteria), and
- to include beyond design basis and severe accident analysis in decision making for overall safety improvement at LVNPP.
- CNSNS prepared an Action Plan to implement these recommendations, that was approved by senior management. The plan includes the modification of internal procedures to include the systematic use of PSA and severe accident assessments, and to improve the collaboration of the different divisions of CNSNS involved, as well as new requirements for LVNPP. A workshop was held in Mexico City to train CNSNS staff in the use of integrated decision making with the use of PSA and severe accident analyses and to discuss the implementation plan approved by management.