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IAEA - IRRS Workshop Highlights the Importance of Continuing to Enhance Regulatory Safety Oversight through Effective Peer Review Services


International experts at the Integrated Regulatory Review Services  workshops series’ held at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna. (Photo: IAEA)

The IAEA met with international experts this month to discuss lessons learned following almost two decades of Integrated Regulatory Review Services (IRRS) during a series of workshops held at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna. Two main topics were discussed: the first was an evaluation of whether tailoring the scope of IRRS missions after the completion of two IRRS cycles could improve the efficiency of the peer review service without impacting its performance; and the usefulness of further exploring the synergies between the IRRS and other IAEA peer review services.

Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, emphasized the value of IRRS missions as an important contributor for enhancing safety worldwide. “IRRS is a global resource that provides opportunities to share regulatory experiences, to harmonize regulatory approaches among States, and to encourage mutual learning among regulatory bodies to strengthen nuclear and radiation safety” she said.

The International and Regional Workshops on Lessons Learned, which took place from 9 to 13 October, attracted 80 participants from 44 countries, including senior experts from regulatory bodies and IAEA staff. Participants engaged in in-depth discussions as well as exchanging and sharing experience and lessons learned from IRRS missions in order to identify ways to further improve the performance of the programme. The programme was launched in 2006, and it is expected that the IAEA will have conducted 150 missions by the end of 2024.

IRRS missions assist countries in strengthening the effectiveness of their governmental, legal and regulatory frameworks for safety, reviewed against the IAEA safety standards and international good practices, while recognizing the responsibility of each State to promote  nuclear and radiation safety.

Conducted by senior regulatory experts from around the world, the missions identify opportunities for improvement and they also enable States to learn from each other through policy discussions and the sharing of good practices.

“The IAEA should keep encouraging Member States having several regulatory authorities involved in the regulatory oversight of safety to request a full scope mission and to involve all relevant national authorities in the peer review process,” said Anna Bradford, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, adding that “it would provide a better understanding by those authorities of the IAEA safety standards to ensure a more effective application of them across each country.”

In his remarks, Ramzi Jammal, acting Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, stated: “senior regulators from all around the world convened to build on 20 years of IRRS missions experience, recognizing the need to continue enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the IRRS missions while contributing to knowledge management to ensure continuous improvement for safety.”

Participants also learned about the importance of conducting a self-assessment of the national regulatory framework — which is an integral part of the IRRS process. In addition to preparing a country to host a peer review mission, the self-assessment provides a great opportunity for an organization to think through its performance and identify its own opportunities for improvement. Self-assessment is a process of investigation and a learning process. “It was recognised that efforts have to be pursued to further streamline the self-assessment process in order to keep reducing the resources needed for a self-assessment while keeping the effectiveness of the process,” Jammal highlighted.

Discussions also covered the challenges of hosting multiple missions such as an IRRS and an Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS).

 “The obligations for European Union Member States to host both IRRS and ARTEMIS missions every ten years is a challenge for the European Union Member States,” said Mikulas Turner, Director of International Relations Division, Nuclear Regulatory Authority of the Slovak Republic. He added that “different approaches have been used to conduct them: i.e., separately or in a correlated manner, like the recent IRRS and ARTEMIS back-to-back missions conducted in seven EU countries. At this time there is no one fit for all approaches.”

ARTEMIS is an integrated expert peer review service for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes. ARTEMIS missions provide independent expert advice from an international team of specialists convened by the IAEA. Reviews are based on the IAEA safety standards,  technical guidance, as well as international good practices.

The participants concluded that the IRRS review process had improved since the previous similar workshop conducted in 2018. Improvements include, amongst others, the  in depth revision of the self-assessment questionnaires to improve the efficiency of the self-assessment process in reducing the number of questions by 75 per cent, the establishment of an online Good Performance Database, the availability online of two e-learning courses for the IRRS teams, and the development of guidance to organize two IAEA peer review services (IRRS and ARTEMIS) back-to-back missions. To ensure the IRRS programme continued adding value for countries having already hosted two full-scope cycles, workshop participants called for tailoring the scope of later IRRS missions, focusing on a smaller number of topics to be covered based on the result of a gap analysis.

The meeting also underscored that IRRS missions play a vital role in highlighting the importance of nuclear and radiation safety. “The work to ensure safety is vitally dependant on regulatory authorities, operators as well as the government. Safety involves continuous monitoring, assessing and improvements,” said Bradford.

(Left to right) Ritva Bly, Principal Advisor of the Finish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK),  Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, Ramzi Jammal, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Anna Hajduk Bradford, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety with participants of the IRRS meeting in October. (Photo: IAEA)

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