“We shall quickly implement the recommendations from the IAEA experts.”

Hans Wanner, Director of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI), is satisfied to note the good marks awarded to Swiss nuclear supervision by the IRRS mission. This thorough inspection has shown that ENSI operates at a high standard on the international scale, Dr Wanner commented during this interview.

Hans Wanner beim Abschluss der IRRS-Mission.
Hans Wanner at the conclusion of the IRRS mission.

Dr Wanner: ENSI was subjected to rigorous scrutiny for two whole weeks. This resulted in 19 “Good Practices” and 13 “Recommendations”. Are you satisfied? Hans Wanner: The IRRS mission has encouraged us in our work. It’s also important for a supervisory authority to have its work reviewed regularly by outsiders. This plays a key part in pinpointing our potential for improvement. A learning organisation needs to acquire new knowledge. The mission showed that we operate to a high standard on the international scale, and that’s probably why so many “Good Practices” were cited.

Isn’t ENSI able to review its own work? Of course we can. We consider our work at regular intervals, because it is part of our safety culture to do so. For instance, we carried out a very intensive review after the Fukushima accident, leading to the “Lessons Learned” report. As well as checkpoints relating to the power plant operators, this also includes some findings that relate to our own work.

You touched on Fukushima. How does the IRRS mission assess your approach to the events there? We were explicitly commended in this regard. The international team of experts concluded that our reactions to Fukushima were exemplary, well organised and successful. In their view, we derived the necessary immediate measures from the first findings. They also singled out our medium-term planning, which aims to implement the lessons in the best possible way.

Even so, the list of recommendations and suggestions from the IRRS mission is a long one. So why could this nevertheless be called a success? There is no fundamental criticism of ENSI’s work – on the contrary. For example, the principle of the “learning system” was explicitly praised. However, the international experts identified potential for improvement in the details, and generally as regards the higher-level regulatory framework, which does not lie within our area of responsibility but within that of the Federal government. All of these findings are valuable for us.

So there are no gaps in supervision? No fundamental gaps. The way that ENSI is set up and the way it operates ensure the safety of the population. The IRRS mission confirmed this to us once again. Nevertheless: we too are a learning organisation, and we have to keep on improving.

Was ENSI able to influence the final report? Not in the least. Why should we? We need an honest assessment. The inspection by the IRRS mission was rigorous, but fair. We were investigated mercilessly, and held up to the mirror. Of course, we discussed the report with the team members and commented on it, but we were not able to influence it at all.

What are the next steps? We shall examine the recommendations and advice in depth. We shall incorporate the items for which we are responsible into an action plan and we will initiate the necessary measures. What is known as a follow-up mission usually takes place after about two or three years.

Is the public excluded from these proceedings? No, we have nothing to hide. We want to be transparent in these respects as well. As soon as we receive the completed report from the IAEA in about three months, we shall make it public. And we shall also publish our action plan.

What will happen if the follow-up mission indicates that key recommendations have not been implemented? This would be the subject of criticism in another public report. I recall that ENSI has already requested – at international level – that international supervision should be strengthened. People will also be able to judge us by these words.