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Press Release 2011/08

IAEA Leads Operational Safety Mission to Armenian Nuclear Power Plant

2 June 2011 | Yerevan, Armenia -- An international team of nuclear installation safety experts, led by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has reviewed the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (ANPP) near Metsamor for its safety practices and has noted a series of good practices, as well as recommendations to reinforce them.

The IAEA assembled an international team of experts at the request of the Government of the Republic of Armenia to conduct an Operational Safety Review (OSART) of the NPP. Under the leadership of the IAEA's Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, the OSART team performed an in-depth operational safety review from 16 May to 2 June 2011. The team was made up of experts from Finland, France, Lithuania, Hungary, Netherlands, Slovakia, UK, USA, EC and the IAEA.

An OSART mission is designed as a review of programmes and activities essential to operational safety. It is not a regulatory inspection, nor is it a design review or a substitute for an exhaustive assessment of the plant's overall safety status. Experts participating in the IAEA's June 2010 International Conference on Operational Safety of Nuclear Power Plants (NPP) reviewed the experience of the OSART programme and concluded:

  • In OSART missions NPPs are assessed against IAEA safety standards which reflect the current international consensus on what constitutes a high level of safety; and
  • OSART recommendations and suggestions are of utmost importance for operational safety improvement of NPPs.

Armenia is commended for openness to the international nuclear community and for actively inviting IAEA safety review missions to submit their activities to international scrutiny. Examples of IAEA safety reviews include: Design Safety Review in 2003; Review of Probabilistic Safety Assessment in 2007; and Assessment of Seismic Safety Re-Evaluation in 2009.

The team at ANPP conducted an in-depth review of the aspects essential to the safe operation of the plant, which is largely under the control of the site management. The conclusions of the review are based on the IAEA's Safety Standards and proven good international practices. The review covered the areas of Management, Organization and Administration; Training, Operations; Maintenance; Technical Support; Operating Experience; Radiation Protection; and Transition from Operations to Decommissioning.

The OSART team has identified good plant practices which will be shared with the rest of the nuclear industry for consideration of their application. Examples include:

  • During the last number of years, several important safety systems have been updated using resources of the plant's staff. This unique approach resulted in staff acquiring deep knowledge and skills to successfully operate and maintain new equipment;
  • A plant simulator utilizing instrumentation and control panels and components from the turbine systems of shutdown Unit 1 has been introduced for training plant staff. The simulator, which is located within the turbine hall, fully replicates the plant conditions that both operations and maintenance staff will be exposed to; and
  • The plant has developed a specific, comprehensive system supported by procedure to mitigate the consequences of a station black-out by providing power to systems and components necessary for cooling the reactor in emergency conditions. Operation personnel are regularly trained to use this system in order to reinforce their capability to put it in operation during an accident.

The team has made recommendations and suggestions related to areas where operational safety of the ANPP could be improved. Examples include:

  • Management should comprehensively establish, communicate and reinforce expectations for eliminating or signposting industrial safety risks and using personal protective equipment;
  • The operator's rounds within the plant should be improved in order to better identify equipment deficiencies; and
  • The plant maintenance work practices including adherence to procedures and use of proper tools should be enhanced to meet appropriate quality and ensure the safe and reliable functioning of equipment.

ANPP management expressed a determination to address all the areas identified for improvement and requested the IAEA to schedule a follow-up mission in approximately 18 months.

The team handed over a draft of their recommendations, suggestions and good practices to the plant management in the form of Technical Notes for factual comments. The technical notes will be reviewed at the IAEA headquarters including any comments from ANPP and the Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority. The final report will be submitted to the Government of the Republic of Armenia within three months.

This was the 161st mission of the OSART programme, which began in 1982. General information about OSART missions can be found on the IAEA website: OSART Missions.