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Press Release 2011/13

Nuclear Experts Complete IAEA Follow-up Review of German Regulatory System

12 September 2011 | Stuttgart, Germany -- Nuclear safety experts concluded a seven-day mission to review the German Regulatory System, conducted from 4-10 September in Bonn, Stuttgart and Berlin.

At the request of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, the International Atomic Energy Agency assembled a peer-review team of six high-level regulatory experts from six nations (Finland, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK, the US and three IAEA senior staff members) to conduct a follow-up assessment of an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission conducted in 2008.

This follow-up IRRS mission examined the progress in acting upon the recommendations and suggestions made during the 2008 IRRS mission and reviewed the areas of significant regulatory changes since that review at both the Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Ministry of Environment of the federal state of Baden-Wurttemberg (UM BW).

The first mission reviewed Germany's regulatory framework against IAEA Safety Standards and fostered the exchange of information and experience on safety regulation. This is a peer review based on IAEA Standards. It is not an inspection, nor an audit. The scope of the mission was limited to the safety regulation of nuclear power plants.

IRRS team leader, Mr. McCree, of the US Nuclear Safety Commission (USNRC), said, "This was an important IRRS mission, particularly given the recent Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident and the related insights which underscore the importance of having an independent, credible nuclear safety regulator."

"The IRRS team identified several strengths of the German nuclear safety regulators, including the prompt and coordinated incident response activities of BMU and UM BW to the Fukushima accident. Some suggestions were also made to further strengthen nuclear safety regulations concerning the future work of BMU," he said.

The review team found that important progress has been made toward improving its regulatory activities at federal and at state level. The IRRS team observed that this high-level clarification of duties has led to improved cooperation between the Federal and Leander regulators, a noteworthy and positive change since the 2008 IRRS mission.

A number of the findings identified in the 2008 report have been effectively addressed and therefore can be considered closed. However, further important steps need to be made to address recommendations and suggestion that are still open.

In addition, the IRRS team noted the following strengths and improvements, examples include:

  • The UM BW demonstrated commitment to continuous improvement as evidenced by its responsiveness to the recommendations and suggestions from the 2008 IRRS mission;
  • The BMU has implemented a comprehensive IT knowledge management approach to support the activities of the regulatory body and its stakeholders. The availability of this up-to-date online information to all involved parties has contributed to mutual trust and shared understanding among all stakeholders; and
  • The prompt and coordinated incident response activities of the BMU and UM BW to the Fukushima accident are commendable. The environmental radiation monitoring programme and the communication to the public and interested parties were carried out in an exemplary manner.

Gustavo Caruso, the IRRS Team Coordinator said, "Important changes have been made in the German regulatory system which resulted in the redefinition of responsibilities and roles among the federal and the states regulatory bodies and this is also contributing to a better understanding and cooperation among them."

The mission should lead to increased governmental support for regulatory activities with a consequential strengthening of the nuclear safety regulation in the country.

The IRRS team also made recommendations and suggestions to further strengthen the German regulatory system. Examples include:

  • BMU should ensure its ability to carry out work in such manner that its safety related activities are not diverted by other ministerial responsibilities, pressures or constraints;
  • The development of regulations and guides should be considered a key function of BMU;
  • BMU should publish Safety Requirements for Nuclear Power Plant document in a timely manner to establish a common and harmonized set of safety requirements and criteria for use by the Laender; and
  • Additional efforts are necessary in the development of the Federal Oversight Manual which provides the basis for the regulatory oversight in Germany.

Jim Lyons, IAEA Director for Nuclear Installations Safety, said, "The IRRS has become an internationally accepted tool for strengthening regulatory activities in IAEA Member States. Germany, in calling for an IRRS Follow-up Mission, has demonstrated their openness and transparency in their commitment to continuous improvement."

The peer review consisted of an analysis of technical regulatory information, interviews, and discussions with key personnel at BMU and UM BW, as well as with regulatory inspectors, high-level governmental officials, BMU Parliamentary State Secretary, Ms. Ursula Heinen-Esser, and UM BW Minister, Franz Untersteller. Other organisations such as the Reactor Safety Commission (RSK) and the technical support organisation "Gesellschaft für Anlagen- und Reaktorsicherheit (GRS)" were also involved.

About IRRS Missions

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the national nuclear regulatory infrastructure of States, whilst recognizing the ultimate responsibility of each State to ensure safety in this area.

This is done through consideration of both regulatory, technical and policy issues, with comparisons against IAEA safety standards and, where appropriate, good practices elsewhere.