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IAEA Mission Reviews Armenia's Regulatory Framework for Nuclear and Radiation Safety


An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of safety experts today concluded a 13-day mission to review the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in the Republic of Armenia.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service team (IRRS) team found that Armenia has an experienced and dedicated regulatory body for the protection of people and the environment and a strong commitment to nuclear and radiation safety, reflected by a legal requirement to follow IAEA safety standards when developing and adopting nuclear-related legislation.

The team also noted that the Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ANRA) faces many challenges in regulating nuclear safety, including a lack of human and financial resources for the planned lifetime extension of the country’s only operating nuclear reactor. Though the reactor’s operating license expires in 2016, ANRA has not yet received an application for an extension of the operation of the reactor, which accounts for 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity production. Extending a reactor’s operating licence requires careful safety evaluation by the regulatory body and usually takes more than one year.

“Our review found some good practices, such as the existence of the Nuclear Safety Council, a group of international professionals who meet regularly with relevant bodies, including ANRA, and who advise the President of the Republic of Armenia. Such a practice could benefit other countries, too,” said IRRS team leader Hans Wanner, Director General of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate.

“We also found challenges, and I am concerned about the lack of timely progress in extending the operating license for the nuclear power reactor.”

The Armenian Government had invited the peer review to compare the country’s legal and regulatory framework with IAEA Safety Standards.

ANRA Chairman Ashot Martirosyan said: “The IRRS mission will contribute to the improvement of the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety and bring it in compliance with modern safety standards.”

The 20-member review team included experts from 14 IAEA Member States - Bulgaria, Cuba, Czech Republic, Egypt, Hungary, India, Iran, Lithuania, Netherlands, the Russian Federation, South Korea, Switzerland, Ukraine and United States of America – and five IAEA staff members.

During the review, team members met with senior managers and staff from ANRA and other organizations, and conducted site visits to observe inspections. Team members also met with managers at the Armenia Nuclear Power Plant and the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Center. Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamyan hosted a meeting with the team leader.

At the mission’s closing meeting, Greg Rzentkowski, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, said that the several IAEA-led peer reviews Armenia has invited and hosted in recent years demonstrate the country’s commitment to nuclear safety.

“In line with the recommendations of these reviews, we expect Armenian authorities to strengthen the national nuclear safety framework to support the continued operation of the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant reactor and prepare for the potential construction of new reactors,” he said.  “The IAEA is prepared to support Armenian authorities as they strive to implement international requirements and good practices.”

The IRRS team identified good practices, including:

  • Armenia makes extensive use of international peer reviews and international support programmes to improve its safety framework;
  • The Government promotes public awareness of how to react in case of a nuclear or radiological emergency through special television programming, produced with the support of ANRA’s technical expertise and broadcast nationally.

The mission provided recommendations and suggestions for improvements, including:

  • The Government should establish and implement a policy for safety that demonstrates its long-term commitment to safety;
  • The Government should provide ANRA with adequate human and financial resources, taking into account the planned design lifetime extension for Armenia’s operating nuclear power reactor;
  • ANRA should require that all licensees have arrangements in place for an adequate and effective response to any nuclear or radiological emergency in line with IAEA safety standards;
  • ANRA should take steps to identify lessons from operating and regulatory experiences in other countries, notably by finalizing work to identify and act upon lessons from the 2011 nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima, Japan;
  • ANRA should review its regulations for medical exposure control, occupational radiation protection and transport of radioactive materials and adapt them in line with IAEA safety standards.

The final mission report will be provided to the Government of Armenia in about three months. Armenian authorities told the team they intend to make the final report public and that they intend to invite a follow-up IRRS mission in due time.

Quick Facts

Armenia has one operational nuclear power reactor, at the Armenian Nuclear Power Plant in Metsamor, 36 kilometers west of Yerevan. The reactor accounted for 40 percent of Armenia’s electricity production in 2014.  A second reactor at the same site has been in long-term shut down condition since 1989. Armenia also has a dry spent fuel storage facility, a radioactive waste storage facility, and many users of radioactive sources in medicine, industry and research.

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.

More information about IRRS missions is available on the IAEA Website.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018

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