Canada's nuclear safety regulator is looking to draw valuable lessons from an unexpected source — the recent Boeing 737 Max airplane accidents.
A working group set up by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has analyzed recommendations flowing from the Boeing crashes with an eye to spotting potential improvements that could just as easily apply to the atomic energy industry, an internal briefing note says.
Aviation authorities around the globe grounded Boeing 737 Max aircraft last March following two catastrophic crashes within five months.
Nuclear safety commission president Rumina Velshi says the agency is looking at how other industries and regulators are adapting to an era of rapid innovation.
She cites the example of banking, saying regulators in Canada and elsewhere had been agile enough to allow the industry to make use of modern communication and technology while protecting consumers from undue risk.
"And I'm also talking about an industry like aviation, where we've seen a very different story unfold with Boeing and its 737 Max passenger aircraft," she told the London-based Office for Nuclear Regulation's annual industry conference last June.
"Just as we learn and try to emulate best practices, we must also take care to analyze instances in which technological progress may have — directly or indirectly — resulted in safety being compromised."
The commission's working group includes members of directorates with responsibilities such as safety management, power reactor regulation, strategic planning and communications, says a November 2019 briefing note to Velshi, obtained through the Access to Information Act.
The working group is basing its review on reports about the Boeing accidents from the Indonesia's civil aviation authority, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board and a panel of international aviation regulators.
The group has identified several themes in the recommendations, including design elements, human performance, post-accident response, regulatory documents and safety culture, the briefing note says.
Isabelle Roy, a spokeswoman for the safety commission, said Tuesday the regulator has "a vested interest" in any lessons learned that could be applicable to the Canadian nuclear industry.
Another devastating airline tragedy — and fears of a nuclear-related mishap — have dominated recent Canadian headlines.
Dozens of Canadians and others with ties to the country died in the crash of a passenger jet mistakenly shot down last week by Iranian forces as it took off from Tehran. On Sunday, a widely transmitted false alert of a problem at Ontario's Pickering Nuclear Generating Station alarmed many nearby residents.
In reviewing the reports on the 737 crashes, the safety commission's working group tweaked the aviation-centric language to wording more commonly used in the nuclear industry, the November note says.
"Following this activity, the working group will assign each recommendation to a lead directorate to identify any lessons learned."
The working group is also contacting the nuclear regulators in Britain and the United States to gain a better understanding of what they are doing in the context of the Boeing accidents.
The group expects to present a final report this spring.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2020.