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IAEA Mission Says Lithuania Committed to Nuclear and Radiation Safety Regulation, Sees Challenges Ahead

2016/13
Vilnius Lithuania

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Lithuania’s bodies involved in nuclear and radiation safety regulation are committed to provide effective oversight but noted they need to ensure they have adequate resources for challenges ahead.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team today concluded a 12-day mission to assess the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Lithuania, where nuclear and radiation safety is regulated by the Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI) and the Radiation Protection Centre (RSC).

“The Lithuanian infrastructure for nuclear safety and radiation protection, including the two regulatory authorities, has a relatively short history compared with many European countries and was created only after independence in 1990.  Taking this into account, the legal and regulatory system and associated regulatory controls are remarkably well-developed, which is a significant achievement,” said team leader Ingemar Lund, Senior Adviser at the Office for International Relations at the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority.

“Lithuania is also very active internationally, working to strengthen the global safety regime. The IRRS mission’s recommendations and suggestions will contribute to further strengthening the nuclear safety and radiation protection infrastructure of Lithuania.”

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.

Lithuania’s Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant has two units that have been shut down, but the site is still home to spent fuel and other radioactive waste storage facilities. The country is considering constructing a reactor at a new site near Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. In addition, radioactive sources are used in medicine, research and industry.

In their preliminary findings, the experts said the possible construction of a nuclear power plant, including preparations related to safety infrastructure, would require additional efforts.  They noted that the regulatory authorities  would have to secure the additional resources and skills required for regulatory oversight of any new facility in due time. The authorities also constantly need to update regulatory requirements in line with new international standards on radiation protection and nuclear safety, the team said.

The team made recommendations and suggestions to the regulatory body and the Government to support their ongoing work to further develop the safety infrastructure.  

The 23-member IRRS team comprised experts from Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom as well as a European Commission representative and four  IAEA staff members.

“Preparing for and hosting the IRRS mission was a very useful exercise for us as it was an opportunity to perform a comprehensive self-assessment, comparing our regulations with requirements in the  updated  IAEA safety standards,” said Michail Demčenko, Head of VATESI.

Albinas Mastauskas, Director of RSC, added: “This review, in combination with the team’s proposals, will help us further improve our national nuclear and radiation safety infrastructure.”

IRRS team members observed regulatory activities, held interviews and discussions with VATESI and RSC staff, and observed inspection activities, including discussions with licensee personnel and management. Team members visited the Ignalina site, a municipal heat power company and a hospital in Vilnius.

The IRRS team identified good practices, including:

•        Lithuania’s active engagement in international cooperation on nuclear and radiation safety, including inviting and taking part in peer reviews and international support programmes.

•        RSC staff members undertake systematically planned training.

•        VATESI conducts self-assessment of safety culture.

The mission provided recommendations and suggestions for improvements, including:

•        The Government should continue improving its legal and regulatory framework for nuclear, radiation and waste safety to ensure full consistency with IAEA safety standards.

•        The Government should conduct a comprehensive assessment of human resource needs in relation to safety, and VATESI and RSC should establish a more systematic approach to human resource management.

•       VATESI and RSC should improve information dissemination to residents near nuclear facilities.

•        VATESI should further improve its inspection programme and ensure that inspectors can take immediate enforcement actions when appropriate.

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