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IAEA Mission Finds Improved Nuclear and Radiation Safety Regulation in Sweden, Sees New Challenges Ahead

Stockholm, Sweden

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Sweden had made significant improvements in its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety, but noted potential new challenges ahead linked to lower electricity prices and any future decommissioning of reactors.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team today concluded a nine-day follow-up mission to assess the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Sweden, reviewing developments since a previous visit in 2012.  The team found that most of the recommendations made four years ago had been implemented. It also suggested new areas for improvement.

“The IRRS team noted that the recommendations and suggestions from the 2012 mission have been considered systematically by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM),” said team leader Georg Schwarz, Deputy Director General of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate.

 “Significant progress has been made in most areas – 20 out of 22 recommendations and all 17 suggestions identified in 2012 were closed.”

The main areas of progress included improvements in SSM’s inspection activities and in the preparedness for radiological emergencies, while maintaining sufficient knowledge and skills related to nuclear and radiation safety remained a challenge.

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national nuclear regulatory infrastructure, while recognizing the responsibility of each State to ensure nuclear safety.

In 2015, nuclear power contributed about a third of Sweden’s electricity production. The country has 10 reactors in three nuclear power plants - Forsmark, Oskarshamn and Ringhals. In addition, it has three reactor units in permanent shutdown and a fuel fabrication facility. It also has an interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel and a centre for waste treatment, storage and material investigation.

The IRRS team reviewed all areas covered by the mission in 2012.  

In its preliminary findings, the team said SSM faces possible new challenges since the previous review, mainly due to declining electricity prices and a change in Sweden’s energy policy aimed at increasing renewable energy sources and overall energy efficiency. SSM therefore needs to prepare for possible large-scale decommissioning of nuclear power reactors, and ensure that economic pressure on the utility industry does not affect nuclear safety negatively.

The IRRS team included nine senior experts from Finland, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, as well as three IAEA staff members.

“The present IRRS mission report will serve as valuable input for our continuous development work. This will be a platform for our development work going forward,” says Mats Persson, Director General of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority.

The IRRS mission included interviews and discussions with SSM staff, representatives of the Ministries of Environment and Energy, Education and Research, Justice, as well as the Swedish Customs, the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, the County Administrative Board of Uppsala and the government-owned utility Vattenfall.

“Throughout the mission, the IRRS team was extended full cooperation by all parties,” said Ahmad Al Khatibeh, head of the IAEA Regulatory Infrastructure and Transport Safety Section. “In particular, the staff of SSM provided the team full assistance and demonstrated openness and transparency.”

The IRRS team identified good practices, including:

  • The Government and SSM undertook a comprehensive project to address the findings of the previous IRRS mission and to meet European Union nuclear safety directives and EU Basic Safety Standards.
  • SSM developed a well-defined set of criteria to assess the risks involved in the multiple uses of radiation sources.

The mission provided suggestions for improvements, including:

  • SSM should complete a comprehensive assessment of its resources needs, taking into account the perspective of the Swedish nuclear industry.
  • SSM should consider making regulatory guidance documents easily available to applicants, licensees and other interested parties.
  • The Government should consider expanding the scope of the national nuclear emergency response plan to include radiological emergencies based on a thorough hazard assessment.

The final mission report will be provided to the Swedish Government in about two months.


Last update: 16 Feb 2018

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