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IAEA Mission Says Ireland's Regulatory Body Effective, Recommends Further Action on Patient Protection

Dublin, Ireland

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Ireland benefits from an effective and independent radiation safety regulatory body. They also made several recommendations to further strengthen Ireland’s regulatory safety framework.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team today concluded a 10-day mission to assess the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Ireland, where the use of radiation is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

“Our counterparts demonstrated their commitment to openness and transparency throughout the mission,” said team leader Margot Tirmarche, Commissioner at the French Nuclear Safety Authority. “The results of the mission will help the Irish Government to prioritize future actions to achieve its goals in relation to radiation safety.”

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

Ireland uses radioactive sources in medicine, industry and other applications. It has no nuclear power or research reactors.

The team of experts made recommendations and suggestions to EPA and the Government to help them further enhance Ireland’s regulatory framework and functions in line with IAEA Safety Standards.

In their preliminary findings, the team said EPA is an effective and independent regulatory body that benefits from experienced, technically competent and well-motivated staff. It noted several good practices, including a web-based system used to apply for radiological licenses.

The team made recommendations and suggestions regarding Ireland’s regulatory framework for patient protection and radioactive waste.

The 14-member IRRS team comprised experts from Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Finland, France, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom as well as four IAEA staff members.

Ann McGarry, Director of EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection, said the team’s thorough review and recommendations would enhance radiation safety in Ireland.

Team members observed regulatory inspections and audits and held discussions with staff from EPA, HSE and other bodies involved in radiation safety regulation. The mission agenda also included visits to a hospital, an industrial sterilisation facility and a cyclotron facility.

The IRRS team identified good practices, including:

  • EPA’s radiation safety inspection activities are certified according to an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard, which provides for transparency as well as continuous improvement.
  • A web-based system for applying for radiological licenses, with clear step-by-step instructions on the information and documents to be provided.
  • Nuclear and radiological emergency plans are well integrated in a framework for major emergency management and a national emergency coordination system following an all-hazards approach.

The mission provided recommendations and suggestions for improvements, including:

  • An effective legal framework for the regulation of patient protection should be implemented, and arrangements to inspect and enforce measures to ensure patient protection should be put in place urgently.     
  • The regulatory body responsible for patient protection should be independent and not have responsibilities for or interests in providing medical radiation treatments, and all regulatory bodies in this area should coordinate their work effectively.
  • The regulatory framework for radioactive waste should be complemented to include the predisposal management of radioactive waste and decommissioning of facilities.

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


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