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IAEA Mission Sees Significant Improvements to Belgian Regulatory Framework and Identifies Areas for Further Enhancement

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Brussels Belgium

Members of the IRRS team together with staff from Belgium’s regulatory body at the end of a follow-up IRRS mission in Brussels on 5 December 2017. (Photo: FANC)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Belgium has made significant improvements to its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety since 2013 by clarifying the regulatory body’s roles and responsibilities and strengthening its independence. The team also observed other improvements and identified areas for further enhancement.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) peer-review team concluded a nine-day follow-up mission today to review Belgium’s implementation of recommendations and suggestions made by a 2013 mission. The review was conducted at the request of the Government and hosted by the country’s nuclear regulatory body, comprising the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) and its technical support arm, Bel V.

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

The IRRS team said the regulatory body had adequately addressed most of the recommendations and suggestions made by the 2013 mission. The team also said the regulatory body should remain focused on tackling outstanding issues.

“Belgium has made key improvements to the national regulatory framework, making it more effective and efficient,” said team leader Robert Campbell of the United Kingdom’s Office for Nuclear Regulation. “The independence of the regulatory body has now been strengthened in legislation, and the roles and responsibilities between the regulator and the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management have been clarified.”

Belgium has seven operating nuclear power reactors at two sites, Doel and Tihange, providing just over half of the country’s electricity and other nuclear installations including research reactors, a radioactive waste treatment facility and an isotope production facility. In addition, medical and industrial applications of radioactive sources are widely used. By law, nuclear power will start to be phased out in 2022.

The scope of the 2013 and the 2017 missions covered areas including: the responsibilities and functions of the Government and the regulatory body; the management system of the regulatory body; activities of the regulatory body related to regulation of the full range of nuclear facilities and activities; emergency preparedness and response; control of medical exposure and radiation safety; and the interface between nuclear safety and nuclear security.

The team found that the regulatory body has taken positive steps to:

  • Establish a central information system for sealed source tracking and inventory as well as inspection recording.
  • Develop a tool to assist in reviewing and assessing safety-related modifications through a clearly defined graded approach.
  • Improve patient radiation protection by raising awareness about the need to justify medical examinations.
  • Enhance openness and transparency, including more communications on regulatory activities aimed at improving public trust.

“We are very pleased with the results, which show that the work we’ve carried out in the last four years is recognized by international experts. I particularly appreciate the comments on transparency and the independence of the regulator,” said Jans Bens, director-general of FANC. “I’d like to thank the staff of the regulatory body for their contribution to this achievement, and we look forward to making continued efforts at improving the regulatory framework.”

The IRRS team also identified a few areas for further enhancing the effectiveness of the regulatory body, including by completing the programme of work on its management system.

“The team has recognised the progress made by the regulatory body since the 2013 review,” said David Senior, head of the IAEA’s Regulatory Activities Section. “The mission found that the regulatory body has addressed the findings from the initial review, demonstrating a commitment to continuous improvement of the regulatory framework against IAEA safety standards.”

The 12-member IRRS team comprised experts from Canada, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States of America as well as four IAEA staff members.

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about three months. Belgium plans to make it public.

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