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IAEA Mission Sees Improved Nuclear and Radiation Safety Regulation in Bulgaria, More Work Needed

Sofia, Bulgaria

(Photo: anjči/Flickr/cc by 2.0)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Bulgaria’s nuclear safety regulatory system has improved significantly in recent years, but added that the regulatory body’s high staff turnover remained a concern.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team today concluded a seven-day follow-up mission to assess the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Bulgaria, reviewing developments since a previous mission in 2013.

“The Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (BNRA) followed up on the earlier mission with a comprehensive action plan that led to significant progress in all areas. Among improvements are a clearer division of responsibilities between BNRA and the Ministry of Health,” said team leader Marta Ziakova, Chair of Slovakia’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority. “We also noted that more work is needed in some areas, such as staff retention.”

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

Bulgaria has six nuclear power reactors at the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant site, of which two are operating and four are being decommissioned. In 2015, nuclear power contributed almost a third of the country's electricity production. Bulgaria also has spent fuel storage sites and waste facilities and numerous users of radioactive sources in the industrial, research and medical fields.

The IRRS team noted that the improved division of responsibilities as well as strengthened coordination and cooperation between the regulatory body and the Health Ministry reduced the risk of duplication or gaps in regulatory work.

It also found that the BNRA has strengthened its inspection process, upgraded its management system and substantially improved emergency planning arrangements, including by establishing systematic emergency training.

The team of experts made suggestions to the regulatory body and the Government to help them continue their work to strengthen Bulgaria’s regulatory framework and functions in line with IAEA safety standards.

The nine-member IRRS team comprised experts from Germany, Greece, Norway, Pakistan, Slovakia and Slovenia, as well as three IAEA staff members.

BNRA Chairman Latchesar Kostov said the mission had been objective and professional, adding that the team had “appreciated the efforts made by BNRA and Health Ministry” since the previous mission.  

“The IRRS follow-up mission was beneficial and effective in assisting a continuous improvement of the Bulgarian regulatory infrastructure,” he said.

The team held interviews and discussions with BNRA and Health Ministry staff and reviewed documents as part of the mission.

The mission provided two new suggestions for improvements:

•        BNRA should continue negotiations with relevant authorities for sufficient financial resources that would allow for competitive salaries to reduce staff turnover.

•        The Health Ministry should consider developing a systematic programme to ensure that all areas it regulates are covered by inspections within a given period.

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

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