A comprehensive review of Spain´s nuclear safety carried out under the IAEA´s Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) has highlighted positive aspects of the country´s nuclear system and identified areas for improvement. Good practices have been found in areas such as technical competence of personnel and quality of infrastructure.
Speaking at a workshop in Seville, Spain, on lessons learned from the IRRS mission, the IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei expressed the wish that a strong nuclear safety culture be adopted worldwide, noting that while nuclear safety has improved significantly, vulnerabilities remain and continued vigilance is needed.
"We must work together to close the gaps that exist today in the coverage of international safety conventions and codes of conduct. It is essential to ensure that a true safety culture takes root worldwide, not least in countries new to nuclear power," he said.
Previous IRRS missions were successfully conducted in Romania, the UK and France, demonstrating the value of the service to both reviewers and host countries. In the mission to Spain, a nuclear security module was also added for the first time.
The IAEA has already received several requests from Member States to use IRRS in the future. "It is encouraging to see how many other countries have requested the service in the coming years," Dr. ElBaradei commented.
As part of its effort to promote nuclear safety worldwide, the IAEA also publishes Nuclear Safety Standards, which are designed to protect people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. They are the essential reference documents for the IRRS missions.
The Seville workshop, which took place on 5 November, was organised by the "Consejo de Seguridad Nuclear", Spain´s Nuclear Safety Council.
Launched in 2006, IRRS is a mutual learning mechanism through which the IAEA helps Member States strengthen their national regulatory infrastructure. It relies on peer review and information exchange on safety practices regarding nuclear installations, radiation, waste, transport, emergency preparedness and security. IRRS focuses on requirements for the legislative framework and the effectiveness of regulatory body activities.
Upon a Member State´s request, the IAEA appoints a team of experts and observers to carry out a thorough assessment and examination of a State´s regulatory apparatus. Reviews are carried out through an intensive series of discussions, interviews, inspections and observations, and the result is a final report of findings and recommendations made by the expert team.
While nuclear regulation remains a national responsibility, international nuclear regulatory fora have been established to strengthen cooperation and harmonization of safety approaches, exchange information and best practices and address common regulatory challenges.