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Enhancing Nuclear Safety: Technical Safety Review Service Streamlined

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International experts during a nuclear power plant walkdown at a Technical Safety Review service in Bulgaria. (Photo: Kozloduy NPP Plc)

Recently published guidelines for the Technical Safety Review (TSR), an IAEA peer review service, aim to streamline, harmonize and formalize the process of conducting the service, which provides an independent evaluation of safety assessment and design documentation. The updated TSR service guidelines are designed to help regulatory bodies, nuclear power plant operators, designers and technical support organizations further enhance the safety of nuclear power plants around the world.

“Since 1988, the IAEA has been providing safety review services on technical subject areas, though the services had different names over the years,” said Cornelia Spitzer, Head of the IAEA Safety Assessment Section. “The updated TSR Service Guidelines provide a concise description of the methodology, how a party can request a TSR, what to expect throughout a review and the major outcome. It also brings the different technical areas which can be peer reviewed under one uniform approach and is useful for Member States considering requesting a TSR.”

This service includes review of national requirements along with recommendations for improvement and covers six different technical subject areas: design safety, generic reactor safety, national safety requirements, probabilistic safety assessment, accident management and periodic safety review. While some IAEA services address technical areas in a high-level process-oriented approach, the TSRs focus on the content, reviewing in-depth the specific technical subject and providing concrete details of improvements needed in terms of the quality, completeness and consistency with the IAEA Safety Standards. To date, the IAEA has conducted 112 reviews in 27 countries, with additional reviews underway.

The peer reviews are conducted by a technical team of external experts led by the IAEA. A typical TSR takes between three and nine months to complete, depending on the country’s needs and the selected topics. The basis of the review is documentation provided by the country, which is reviewed against IAEA Safety Standards.

“National safety requirements vary by country, so it is important to review documents against the same set of requirements from review to review,” said Paul Amico, principal consultant at Jensen Hughes and an expert who has participated in TSRs. “The guidelines help to streamline the implementation of a TSR and to provide a consistent level of rigor in the review against IAEA Safety Standards, which represent the consensus among IAEA Member States.”

Responding to countries' needs

The scope of each TSR is tailored to a country’s needs at most stages of development and implementation of a nuclear power programme, including conceptual design, pre-licensing and licensing stages, nuclear power plant construction, operation and plant modifications including periodic safety reviews and lifetime extension. For example, a country embarking on a nuclear power programme may request a TSR to evaluate its national safety requirements being developed in the country.

“In anticipation of Hungary’s plan to construct an additional nuclear power plant at the Paks site, we have requested a TSR on design safety focused on the preliminary safety analysis report,” said Gyula Fichtinger, Director General of the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority. “We firmly believe that the future TSR on design safety would contribute to adhering to the IAEA Fundamental Safety Principles and the relevant IAEA Safety Requirements.”

“Nuclear safety remains the responsibility of individual countries. The TSR services, however, can help Member States implement a sustainable and successful nuclear power programme through insights on maintaining and improving all aspects of their nuclear safety framework,” said Greg Rzentkowski, Director of Nuclear Installation Safety Division, noting that TSRs do not constitute a design certification or licensing activity.

TSRs on generic aspects of reactor safety have been completed for several conventional nuclear reactor designs as well as for a small modular reactor.

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