Brussels, Belgium -- Senior international nuclear safety and radiation protection experts today concluded a 12-day International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission to review the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Belgium.
The mission reviewed the effectiveness of Belgium's nuclear regulator, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) and its subsidiary Bel V, in regulating the safety of the use of radioactive material. Their regulatory authority covers nuclear power plants, research reactors, fuel cycle facilities, radioactive waste storage facilities, radioactive waste management and decommissioning, occupational radiation protection, public and environmental exposures, emergency planning and response, and transport of radioactive material.
The team made recommendations and suggestions to the regulatory body and the Government to help them strengthen the effectiveness of Belgium's regulatory framework and functions in line with IAEA Safety Standards.
"The Belgian regulatory body oversees a wide range of activities, and the regulatory framework for these activities is complex. We observed a dedicated, professional and experienced staff with an appropriate focus on safety during implementation of their regulatory duties over the wide range of facilities and activities in Belgium," said Colin Patchett, IRRS mission Team Leader and United Kingdom Office for Nuclear Regulation Director - IRRS Missions.
FANC's Director General, Jan Bens, said that implementation of the recommendations and consideration of suggestions developed by the team will further improve the Belgian regulatory body's work to protect the public and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation. The regulatory body will also use the IRRS team's findings as guidance to ensure that it has the necessary skills and competences in the field of decommissioning.
The 26-member review team comprised experts from Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as six IAEA staff members and an observer each from the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority and the European Commission. The Belgian Government invited the mission, which included site visits to observe inspections and an emergency exercise as well as interviews and discussions with FANC and Bel V staff and other organizations.
The main observations of the IRRS Review team included the following:
- Protection of the public and the environment from ionizing radiation is addressed in Belgium's legal system;
- FANC and Bel V jointly implement regulatory functions in Belgium;
- From the team's interactions, it was noted that the regulatory body staff is committed to assuring nuclear and radiation safety in Belgium;
- The regulatory body actively participates in the Global Safety Regime, a framework for achieving the worldwide implementation of a high level of safety at nuclear installations; and
- The mission found that Belgium's regulatory regime had responded in a timely and effective way to the March 2011 accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The stress test that was held as part of the response was extended to include not only nuclear power plants but also other relevant facilities.
Good practices identified by the IRRS team included the following:
- The regulatory body's review of flaws in the pressure vessels of nuclear power plant reactors Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were thorough and significant in terms of international collaboration;
- Transport of radioactive materials is well regulated;
- FANC is proactive in engaging with interested parties to promote radiation safety in the medical sector; and
- The regulatory body captures and analyses safety culture information during inspections.
The mission identified issues in need of attention or improvement, including the following:
- A national policy and strategy for nuclear and radiation safety including management of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel management should be developed;
- A systematic review of the Belgian regulatory structure's ability to effectively discharge its responsibilities should be developed and implemented;
- Belgium's legislative and regulatory process for developing and reviewing regulations and guides needs to be updated, and
- A clear separation needs to be established between the authority for regulating safety and the responsibility for developing nuclear energy policy at the Government level.
The final mission report will be provided to the Belgian government in about three months. The FANC informed the team that it will make the report public and that it will request a follow-up mission.
Belgium has seven operating nuclear power reactors at two sites, and a large variety of nuclear installations and source users including research reactors, radioactive waste treatment, and medical and industrial sources and users.
About IRRS Missions
The IRRS missions review a broad spectrum of the nuclear legal and regulatory framework, resulting in recommendations to improve compliance with the IAEA safety standards and suggestions for further possible enhancement of the regulatory framework.
This is done through consideration of both regulatory technical and policy issues, with comparisons against IAEA Safety Standards and, where appropriate, good practices elsewhere. IRRS missions are designed to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the national nuclear regulatory infrastructure of States, while recognizing the ultimate responsibility of each State to ensure safety in this area.
The IAEA encourages countries that have hosted initial IRRS missions to invite follow-up missions two to four years after the initial missions.
The mission to Belgium was the 50th IRRS mission conducted since the inception of the IRRS programme in 2006.
More information about IRRS missions is available on the IAEA Website.