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IAEA Mission Sees Significant Progress in Greece’s Regulatory Framework, Suggests Step to Further Strengthen Radiation Safety

Athens, Greece

Greek flag. (Photo: Trine Juel/Flickr)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Greece has significantly strengthened its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety since 2012 and suggested an additional legislative measure for its further enhancement.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team today concluded a five-day follow-up mission to review Greece’s implementation of recommendations and suggestions made during a 2012 visit. The mission was hosted by the Greek Atomic Energy Commission (EEAE), the regulatory authority that oversees nuclear and radiation safety in the country. 

Using IAEA safety standards and international best 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 Greece has been responsive to the findings of the 2012 review to enhance its national framework for safety and the protection of public health against radiation. The EEAE implemented almost all the recommendations and suggestions from the previous review, the experts said.

“Greece has taken very significant strides towards strengthening its regulatory infrastructure,” said team leader Tom Ryan, Programme Manager at Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency. “An important suite of legislative provisions has been enacted, bringing the Greek radiation safety regulations into line with international standards.”

Greece makes extensive use of radiation sources in medical and industrial applications, as well as in science and research. The country has one nuclear facility, a research reactor currently in extended shutdown mode at the National Centre for Scientific Research “Demokritos” located on the outskirts of Athens.

“The EEAE’s enforcement powers have increased since the last review and the regulatory body has significantly developed its internal management system,” Ryan said.

The scope of the 2012 and the 2017 IRRS missions covered areas including: responsibilities and functions of the Government and the EEAE; the global nuclear safety regime; management system and activities of the regulatory body, including authorization, review and assessment, inspection, and the content and development of regulations and guides; emergency preparedness and response; transport; control of medical exposure; occupational radiation protection; and environmental monitoring and remediation.

The team found that since 2012, the EEAE has taken positive steps to, among others:

  • Update its legal and regulatory framework to bring these into compliance with the latest IAEA safety standards.
  • Assign clear responsibility for radiation safety.
  • Improve patient protection by checking, at the time of licence issuance and during inspections, the justification for diagnostic examinations and dose delivery.
  • Enhance the national regulatory framework for the management of radioactive waste and decommissioning.

“The outcome of the follow-up mission confirms the significant progress achieved in the last years in radiation safety in Greece. We welcome the findings as a basis for decision-making towards further improvement of our national regulatory framework,” said EEAE Chairman Christos Housiadas. “Compliance with the international standards is a win-win situation which benefits the national and the global safety systems.”

During this year’s review, the team also identified a new good practice, an EEAE research project on clinical audits and radiation protection for new diagnostic and therapeutic technologies. 

The IRRS team also made an additional recommendation to the Government to amend legislation to ensure facilities do not continue operations until licences have been fully renewed.

“The fact that the Government and the EEAE were able to address most recommendations and suggestions is a clear indication of the government’s commitment to nuclear and radiation safety and of the EEAE’s drive towards achieving regulatory excellence,” said Peter Johnston, Director of IAEA’s Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety.

The eight-member IRRS team comprised experts from Cuba, France, Ireland, Italy and Sweden, as well as three IAEA staff members.

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

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