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IAEA Mission Sees Improvements to France's Regulatory Safety Framework, Areas for Enhancement

Paris, France

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said France has significantly strengthened its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety, while noting that future challenges will require a continued focus on resource management.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team concluded an eight-day follow-up mission today to assess how France has implemented recommendations and suggestions made by a 2014 mission. The team was hosted by the Government and the Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN), which is responsible for nuclear and radiation safety regulation in the country.

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

The IRRS team found that 14 of the 16 recommendations made by the 2014 mission had been implemented. It said that ASN had made significant progress in enhancing its management system and developed policy statements incorporating safety culture aspects in training, self-assessment and management. Further efforts are required to secure sufficient human and financial resources, and to complete regulatory guidance documents.

“A comprehensive action plan established by ASN after the 2014 IRRS mission led to significant progress in all areas,” said team leader Bill Dean, former Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “In particular, the Government and ASN have made considerable effort in revising the legal and regulatory framework and further enhancing its alignment with the IAEA Safety Standards.”

Nuclear power generates more than 70 percent of France’s electricity, the largest share in the world. The country has 58 operating nuclear power reactors and one under construction, at Flamanville on the north-western coast.

The IRRS team provided a preliminary report on the status of implementation of the recommendations and suggestions made by the 2014 mission to the ASN and the Government to help them continue strengthening the regulatory framework. The team noted that ASN has added financial and personnel resources, while introducing efficiencies across its activities and improving its resource planning. The team said ASN should continue focusing on resource management to ensure it is able to meet upcoming challenges, including periodic safety reviews, the life extension of nuclear power plants and new responsibilities such as supply chain oversight and radioactive source security.

“I am especially happy that the IAEA made it possible to gather together a strong team with high skill levels to appraise the efforts made by ASN, after the full scope mission performed in 2014,” ASN Chairman Pierre-Franck Chevet said.

Greg Rzentkowski, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, said: “The ASN is an effective regulator as evidenced by the findings of the IRRS mission.” He added that “France is the first country to complete its second cycle of IRRS Missions which is a reflection of national commitment to continuous safety improvement.”

The final mission report will be provided to the Government of France in about three months. French authorities told the IAEA they plan to make the report public.

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