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IAEA Mission Sees Significant Progress in Jordan’s Regulatory Safety Framework, Challenges Ahead

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Amman Jordan

Jordanian flag. (Photo: Mr Littlehand/Flickr)

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Jordan significantly strengthened its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in recent years. Looking ahead, it noted that the regulator will continue to face human resources challenges as the country prepares for a nuclear power programme.    

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team today concluded an eight-day follow-up mission in Jordan to review its   implementation of recommendations and suggestions made by a 2014 mission. The 15-22 October visit was conducted at the request of the Government and hosted by the Energy and Minerals Regulatory Commission (EMRC), the national nuclear regulator.

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 Jordan had effectively addressed the findings of the previous mission and made notable progress in enhancing its regulatory framework. The EMRC either fully implemented all the recommendations and suggestions from 2014 or made considerable progress towards that goal, the experts said.

“This is a major achievement. The EMRC has shown commitment to continuously improving its regulatory practices,” said team leader Nikolay Vlahov, Head of the Licensing of Nuclear Facilities Division of Bulgaria’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency (BNRA).

Jordan uses radiation sources in medical and industrial applications as well as in science and research. Its first research and training reactor is expected to start operating soon. Relying on imported fossil fuel for its energy needs, Jordan is among some 30 countries interested in introducing nuclear energy.  It plans to build a nuclear power plant at the Amra site, about 70 km east of the capital Amman.

“Maintaining and expanding staff competence and knowledge will be a continuous challenge as the number of radiation facilities is growing, a research reactor is close to start-up and a nuclear power plant is being considered,” Vlahov said.

The scope of the 2014 and the 2017 IRRS missions covered areas including: responsibilities and functions of the Government and the EMRC; the global nuclear safety regime; the EMRC’s management system and activities, including authorization,  inspection, enforcement and the development of regulations and guides; emergency preparedness and response; occupational exposure control and patient protection; and the regulatory infrastructure being developed to support the introduction of a nuclear power programme.

The IRRS team said Jordan had taken several positive steps since the previous mission, including approval of a national policy and strategy for safety as well as a national policy for radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel management. It has developed safety legislation which is awaiting final parliamentary approval, and regulations and instructions. The EMRC has also taken action to improve staffing levels and competencies and has enhanced emergency preparedness and response.

“Since 2014, the EMRC has made great efforts to meet IAEA safety standards and to improve the national safety infrastructure,” said EMRC Chairman H.E. Farouq Al-Hyari. “These efforts for further enhancement will continue.”

The EMRC is responsible for all aspects of regulating radiation safety as well as nuclear safety and security in Jordan.

“It is further expanding its activities to address the regulation of the nuclear power programme while maintaining its focus on the safety of existing facilities and activities,” said IRRS team coordinator Hilaire Mansoux of the IAEA’s Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety.

The IRRS team made one new recommendation and three new suggestions. The EMRC should:

  • Revise its regulatory framework to include classification of exposure situations and requirements for protecting workers undertaking remedial actions.
  • Consider completing its internal arrangements regarding the organization of the team acting on its premises during an emergency.
  • Consider establishing the minimal duration of training of medical personnel with respect to patient radiation protection.
  • Consider implementing the accreditation of radiation and nuclear safety inspectors.

The 11-member IRRS team comprised experts from Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Ireland, Lebanon, Pakistan, and Slovenia, as well as three IAEA staff members.

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

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