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IAEA Mission Concludes Peer Review of the Republic of Korea’s Regulatory Framework for Nuclear Safety

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Daejeon Republic of Korea

Nuclear Laws of the Republic of Korea

An international team of senior nuclear safety and radiation protection experts today concluded a 12-day International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission to review the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in the Republic of Korea. The team reviewed progress following a 2011 mission.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) follow-up mission team said in its preliminary report that the Republic of Korea had addressed almost all issues that were raised during the earlier mission. Actions taken since then include the establishment of an independent and competent regulatory body, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC), which is well supported by two technical organizations.

In addition to following up on issues found in 2011, the team reviewed additional areas, including regulatory oversight of all facilities related to the use of radiation, the protection of workers, patients and the public.

The mission, held at the invitation of the government, identified a series of good practices and made recommendations to further improve the regulatory system.

"The message carried over to IAEA Member States by this IRRS mission is full of significance. It gives prominent visibility to the work accomplished by the Republic of Korea to enhance its regulatory effectiveness, and demonstrates again the usefulness and strength of the IAEA Safety Standards which serve as the benchmark for this review," IAEA Deputy Director General Denis Flory, Head of the Department for Nuclear Safety and Security, said at the mission's closing meeting.

The team noted that the government had taken several steps to improve public information and involvement in nuclear safety, and that it had applied lessons learned from a 2012 case that revealed that domestic suppliers to the nuclear industry had falsified quality assurance documents. The team also emphasised that the country needs to further strengthen its regulatory programme by devoting sufficient resources to it, and by enhancing intergovernmental coordination and improving public involvement.

"Successfully addressing most of the issues raised in the 2011 review is a commendable achievement that underlines the Republic of Korea's commitment to nuclear safety," said Mission Team Leader Georg Schwarz, Deputy Director General of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate. "This commitment benefits the country as it works to further improve the nuclear regulatory system, including by looking at the additional issues raised in this review."

The mission team, which conducted the review from 8 to 19 December, comprised 16 senior regulatory experts from 15 IAEA Member States, one observer and four IAEA staff members. The team observed regulatory activities and met officials and staff from the NSSC and related bodies. The review also included visits to the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) Irradiation Facility, the Korea Nuclear Fuel (KNF) fuel cycle facility, the Korea Radioactive Waste Agency (KORAD) low- and intermediate-level waste disposal facility, the Konyang University Hospital and the DHI Changwon factory.

"The IRRS mission was valuable and recognized that in an international perspective, the Republic of Korea is well equipped with a sound regulatory framework for nuclear safety," said the Secretary General of NSSC, Kim Yonghwan. "The regulatory body of Korea will now implement all the necessary steps to resolve the issues found to further improve the regulatory system and provide better nuclear safety to the general public."

Good practices identified by the IRRS team include the following:

  • Use of a tracking system that provides real-time information on the location of highly radioactive sources; and
  • The establishment of a comprehensive, coordinated approach that ensures that there are no conflicts between safety and security measures.

The mission identified some issues in need of attention or improvement, including the following:

  • The regulatory body should be given oversight of licensees' safety culture and integrated management systems;
  • The regulatory body should also be given authority to require and assess periodic safety reviews for fuel cycle facilities and radioactive waste management facilities;
  • The radiation safety framework for workers in non-nuclear facilities, patients and the public should be improved;
  • Operators of fuel cycle facilities should be required to conduct integrated safety assessments, including chemical and industrial hazards; and
  • The regulatory framework should be regularly updated to ensure that it is in line with the latest international safety standards.

A final report will be submitted to the Republic of Korea's Government in about three months.

The NSSC told the IRRS mission that it will make the report available to the public.

Quick Facts

The Republic of Korea has 23 operating nuclear power reactors and five under construction. Nuclear power produces about 28 per cent of the country's electricity. In addition, the country has two operating research reactors.

About IRRS Missions

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the national nuclear regulatory infrastructure, while recognizing the ultimate responsibility of each State to ensure safety in this area. This is done through consideration of regulatory, technical and policy issues, with comparisons against IAEA Safety Standards, and, where appropriate, good practices elsewhere.

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Last update: 9 March 2017