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IAEA Mission Recognizes Saudi Arabia's Commitment to Radiation Safety, Identifies Areas for Further Improvement

Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission said the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has demonstrated commitment to safety for all applications and occurrences of radiation sources in the country. The team recommended actions for improvement, including the establishment of a national strategy for radioactive waste management. 

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission, the first to Saudi Arabia, was conducted at the request of the Government of Saudi Arabia and hosted by the Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Commission (NRRC). The ten-day mission took place from 1 to 10 October 2023.

Using IAEA safety standards and international good practices, IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national regulatory infrastructure while recognizing the responsibility of each country for nuclear, radiation, radioactive waste and transport safety.

In 2018, Saudi Arabia’s Government announced its national policy for an atomic energy programme for peaceful uses, committing to achieve the highest safety and security standards in nuclear and radiation facilities, activities and practices.  The country uses radioactive sources in medicine, industry, research, and education and has an important Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM) industry, areas that were the focus of this IRRS mission. The NRRC regulates all nuclear and radiological activities and facilities.

The IRRS team - consisting of senior regulatory experts from ten IAEA Member States, three IAEA staff members and one observer – met with officials from the NRRC to assess Saudi Arabia’s regulatory framework for radiation safety against IAEA safety standards. The IRRS team members observed the working practices during inspections carried out by NRRC at the nuclear medicine facility at Alhabib Hospital, the Sure Beam Middle East, L.L.C industrial irradiator facility, the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) and a radioactive waste storage facility. The IRRS team members also visited NRRC’s environmental monitoring laboratories. The team noted that relationships between the regulatory body and authorized parties were constructive and open.

“Overall, we found that the regulatory programme of Saudi Arabia is well established, considering that it was only established four years ago,” said Paul Dale, from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in the United Kingdom and Team Leader for the mission. “The regulatory oversight of radiation safety is solid, established and progressing, the IRRS team welcomes the commitment of NRRC to continue to progress its regulatory systems and to continually improve.”

The team found that Saudi Arabia has adopted the policies, principles, and strategies to further continue the development of the regulatory programme for radiation safety and concluded that it is fully committed to safety in all applications of atomic technology in the country.

The IRRS team observed the following good practices:

  • The establishment of a Joint Government Organizations Policy (JGoP) as a legally binding mechanism for ensuring legal division of labour to deliver effective joint working arrangements and coordination between the NRRC and other relevant government agencies and for the tasks and responsibilities to be clearly assigned to avoid any omissions, undue duplication or conflicting requirements.
  • The establishment of a certified business continuity management system by the NRRC for maintaining the regulatory oversight of facilities and activities continuity of its critical regulatory functions in any disruptive or emergency situation.

The IRRS team also made recommendations and suggestions for the Government and NRRC which will enhance the effectiveness of the regulatory framework and functions in line with the IAEA safety standards, including:

  • To establish a national strategy for radioactive waste management to outline arrangements for ensuring the implementation of the national policy.
  • To consider establishing a competence framework led by the NRRC for building and maintaining competence in safety.
  • To consider developing and implementing national comprehensive arrangements, with clear roles for relevant organizations, to search for and regain control over legacy of radioactive sources including orphan sources.
  • To complete and implement a protection strategy for NORM exposure situations.
  • The NRRC should formally recognize Technical Service Organizations in Saudi Arabia that may have significance for safety.

The IRRS Team also noted that the majority of the areas identified for further improvement were identified by Saudi Arabia itself in its self-assessment, made in advance of the mission.

“The NRRC values its strategic partnership with the IAEA and welcomes the conclusions of IRRS mission. The outcomes from the mission will help guide the strengthening of the regulatory framework for radiation safety and will be used to formulate the strategy of the NRRC for the following years,” said Khalid Aleissa, Chief Executive Officer of the NRRC.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with NRRC as regulator made a big step forward in developing the regulatory framework for radiation safety,” added Hildegarde Vandenhove, Director of the IAEA Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety at the closing session today. “I am confident that the recommendations and suggestions highlighted during the review mission, will be considered and implemented.”


General information about IRRS missions can be found on the IAEA website. The IRRS regulatory review process provides a peer review of both regulatory technical and policy issues and is suitable for any State, regardless of the level of development of its activities and practices that involve ionizing radiation or a nuclear programme. IRRS teams evaluate a State’s regulatory infrastructure for safety against IAEA safety standards. The teams compile their findings in reports that provide recommendations and suggestions for improvement and note good practices that can be adapted for use elsewhere to strengthen safety. Mission reports describe the effectiveness of the regulatory oversight of nuclear, radiation, radioactive waste and transport safety and highlight how it can be further strengthened.

The IAEA Safety Standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements, and guidance to ensure safety. They reflect an international consensus and serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.

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