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IAEA Mission Says Austria Committed to Strengthening Nuclear and Radiation Safety, Sees Areas for Enhancement

Vienna, Austria

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Austria is committed to strengthening its national legal and regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety. The team also made recommendations for further enhancements, including a reorganization and harmonization of the functions of the federal authorities involved in regulatory control.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team today concluded a nine-day mission to assess the regulatory safety framework in Austria. The mission was conducted at the request of the Government of Austria. The team of senior nuclear and radiation safety experts met with representatives of the Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism (BMNT), the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) and the Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection (BMASGK).

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

The IRRS team observed that the BMNT, BMBWF and BMASGK counterparts were committed to providing regulatory oversight of all facilities and activities under their jurisdictions. The team also noted the need to harmonize the federal regulatory framework with European Union legislation and international safety standards. 

"Austria has demonstrated its commitment to nuclear and radiation safety by inviting, for the first time, an international peer review for its regulatory oversight of radiological and nuclear facilities and activities," said team leader Mika Markkanen, Principal Adviser, Regulation Practices Regulation at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK). "We are confident that Austria will tackle the tasks before it, including the overall revision of the legal framework and the implementation of the government’s plan to restructure the regulatory framework." 

Austria uses radiation sources in medical and industrial applications, as well as in science and research, including at a research reactor in Vienna. 

“We are thankful for this important, independent review of our regulatory framework,” said Andreas Molin, host country Liaison Officer. “I am convinced that the recommendations and suggestions made by the mission will assist us in modernizing our regulatory infrastructure in line with IAEA safety standards.” 

The IRRS mission was a limited scope mission as it did not cover all civilian radiation source facilities and activities regulated in Austria. It focused on the country’s research reactor and the radiation sources regulated at the federal level. 

The 13-member IRRS team comprised senior regulatory experts from Australia, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Finland, India, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Sweden as well as four IAEA staff members.

The IRRS team visited the TRIGA Mark II Research Reactor and the Kaiser Franz Joseph Hospital, which has a radiotherapy facility, both in Vienna. The team also observed regulatory inspection activities and held discussions with personnel and management of licensees.

“By hosting the mission and demonstrating its dedication to a responsible approach to nuclear and radiation safety, Austria set an example for other countries,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Deputy Director General and head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. “This is particularly useful considering that many countries are in the process of setting up or strengthening their regulatory framework in line with the IAEA safety standards.” 

The team provided recommendations and suggestions, including:

  • The Government should consider reorganizing the fragmented system of several federal regulatory authorities into a simpler structure that would allow for more effective use of available resources.
  • The Government should review the federal regulatory framework to avoid any potential conflict of interest and to ensure appropriate independence in the discharge of safety-related regulatory functions.
  • The regulatory body should consider further harmonizing regulatory practices among all authorities involved in regulatory control.
  • The regulatory body should further develop and implement its Integrated Management System to fully meet IAEA safety standards.

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about three months. The Government plans to make the report public.

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