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IAEA Mission Says Chile Committed to Enhancing Safety, Sees Regulatory Challenges

Santiago, Chile
Chile Flag

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Chile is committed to strengthening its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety. To help achieve this aim, the team said the country should address challenges in some areas, including the need to ensure effective independence in regulatory decision-making.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team today concluded a 12-day mission to assess the regulatory safety framework in Chile. The mission was conducted at the request of the Government and hosted by the Chilean Nuclear Energy Commission (CCHEN), which is responsible for regulatory supervision together with the Ministry of Health (MINSAL).

The review mission covered all civilian nuclear and radiation source facilities and activities regulated in Chile.

“Chile has demonstrated its commitment to nuclear and radiation safety and regulatory oversight of such facilities and activities,” said team leader Javier Zarzuela, Sub-director of Operational Radiation Protection at Spain’s Nuclear Safety Council (CSN).  “However, it faces some significant challenges related to regulatory independence, as well as to the safety framework where further improvement is needed.”

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.

The team of senior nuclear and radiation experts identified one good practice, and made several recommendations and suggestions to help Chile further enhance the regulatory framework in line with IAEA safety standards.

The team said the Government should ensure that CCHEN and MINSAL are effectively independent in decision-making related to safety, and that their activities are coordinated to avoid any regulatory omissions or duplications.

The experts recognized that the two regulatory authorities had prepared a preliminary action plan as a result of a self-assessment ahead of the IRRS mission that addressed some of the team’s findings.

The 15-member IRRS team comprised experts from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Cuba, France, Greece, Hungary, Spain and Sweden as well as four IAEA staff members.

“It is a priority for us to review our work and compare it with international best practice,” said Patricio Aguilera, Executive Director of CCHEN. “We want our nuclear- and radiation-related activities in fields such as medicine and manufacturing, to name just a few, to be safe for everybody.”

The IRRS review covered areas including: responsibilities and functions of the Government; the global safety regime; responsibilities and functions of the regulatory body; activities of the regulatory body including authorization, review and assessment, inspection and enforcement processes; transport of radioactive material; emergency preparedness and response; occupational radiation protection; environmental monitoring; and control of medical and public exposure.

The IRRS team observed regulatory activities and met with staff of CCHEN and MINSAL. They visited the country’s research reactor, a nuclear fuel manufacturing facility, a radioactive waste management facility, an industrial radiography facility and a medical facility. Senior team representatives also met with Minister of Energy Andrés Rebolledo, Minister of Health Carmen Castillo and Director of International and Human Security Frank Tresler of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

“I’m confident that the mission has provided valuable insights that CCHEN and MINSAL can use in their drive for regulatory excellence,” said Peter Johnston, Director of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety in the IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. “The two regulatory authorities could benefit from strengthening their coordination and the consistency in their approach.”

The IRRS team identified the following good practice:

  • The development of technical capability to perform biological dosimetry in cases of overexposure.

The mission provided recommendations and suggestions for further regulatory enhancements, including:

  • The Government should review the legal and regulatory framework for nuclear, radiation, transport and waste safety to achieve full consistency with the latest IAEA safety standards.
  • It should ensure functional separation of the regulatory body from entities with responsibilities or interests that could unduly influence decision-making.
  • CCHEN and MINSAL should allocate and manage their resources so that their regulatory responsibilities and functions are implemented effectively.
  • They should develop and update safety-related regulations and guidance documents to make them consistent with the latest IAEA safety standards.

The final mission report will be provided to the Government of Chile in about 3 months. The Government plans to make the report public.

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