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IAEA Mission Welcomes Establishment of New Regulator in Portugal, Encourages Further Enhancement of Nuclear Legal Framework

Lisbon, Portugal

Photo: fdecomite/flickr

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Portugal has improved its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety, including by establishing a new regulator. The team also made recommendations for further enhancements of the regulatory system. The country should, for example, adopt a long-term approach to radiation safety and a comprehensive national strategy for radioactive waste management.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team of senior nuclear and radiation safety experts on Wednesday concluded their eleven-day mission to assess the regulatory safety framework in Portugal. The mission, which was the first of this kind to the country, was conducted at the request of the Government of Portugal.

Portugal uses radiation sources in medical and industrial applications, as well as in science and research. The Portuguese Research Reactor (RPI), the country’s only such facility, is being prepared for decommissioning. Radioactive waste and disused sources are centrally stored in a national radioactive waste facility.

The team met with representatives of the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA) and the General Inspection of Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Spatial Planning (IGAMAOT). The new law from 2018 brought together the two entities to form the National Regulatory Authority to administer a regulatory framework. This regulatory framework replaced the 2002 regulatory infrastructure that was not designated as an independent regulatory body.

“Portugal has demonstrated its commitment to nuclear and radiation safety by requesting, for the first time, an international peer review of its regulatory oversight for nuclear and radiological facilities and activities,” said Peter Johnston, Director of the IAEA's Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety, at the exit meeting for the mission.

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

“Portugal has taken major steps during recent years to improve its regulatory oversight through developments in the legislative and regulatory framework, including the establishment of the new regulatory body,” said team leader Mika Markkanen, Principal Adviser, Regulation Practices Regulation at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK). “We are confident that by continuing the work already in progress, Portugal will address the remaining recommendations."

This mission also marks a milestone in a coordinated joint European Commission (EC) - IAEA programme to encourage IRRS peer review missions in European Union (EU) Member States. Regular international peer review safety missions are mandatory for all EURATOM members. With Portugal’s participation, all EU members have fulfilled this obligation for the current cycle.

“APA welcomes the IRRS review of our new regulatory framework and on the degree of implementation of IAEA safety standards in Portugal,” said Nuno Lacasta, APA President. “The inputs by the experts have identified opportunities to enhance the regulatory framework further to maintain a high level of safety for the public, workers, patients, and the environment”.

José Brito e Silva, IGAMAOT Inspector-General, highlighted the excellent and "continuous and consistent institutional collaboration and cooperation at a national and international level" and underlined “the importance of the IRRS mission to improve IGAMAOT´s performance and success in fulfilling its mission.”

The eleven-member IRRS team comprised senior regulatory experts from Australia, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia and Spain, and three IAEA staff members. They held interviews and discussions with key personnel from APA and IGAMAOT. The team also observed regulatory inspections at a hospital, an industrial facility and a radioactive waste facility.

The IRRS team identified several recommendations and suggestions to further enhance the Portuguese regulatory system and the effectiveness of the regulatory functions in line with IAEA safety standards, including:

  • The Government should establish a comprehensive national policy and corresponding strategies for safety and radioactive waste management to consolidate its long-term commitment to safety.
  • The Government should ensure that the legislative framework for safety is further developed and maintained systematically in compliance with the IAEA safety requirements.
  • The regulatory body should develop and implement a management system for all possible regulatory processes and materials in a graded approach based on the individual circumstances and risks.
  • The regulatory body should consider finalizing the formal agreement between APA and IGAMAOT to coordinate their activities more effectively.

The IRRS team considered as a good performance that all Internal Emergency Plans are reviewed by APA’s emergency preparedness and response experts. The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about three months. The Government plans to make the report public.

IAEA Safety Standards

The IAEA Safety Standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements, and guidance to ensure safety. They reflect an international consensus and serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.


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