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IAEA Nuclear Safety Review Service Marks 100th Mission Worldwide

Vienna, Austria

A major IAEA peer review service for nuclear safety is marking a milestone this week. With a review under way in Hungary, the Integrated Regulatory Review Service, or IRRS, is conducting its 100th mission worldwide.

Launched in 2006, the IRRS assists Member States in strengthening and enhancing the effectiveness of their national governmental, legal and regulatory infrastructure for nuclear and radiation safety. IRRS peer reviews are conducted at the request of Member States by teams of international experts using IAEA safety standards as the benchmark, while recognizing the responsibility of each country to ensure nuclear and radiation safety. The missions identify areas for improvement and host countries develop action plans to address their findings.

“The 100th mission is a significant achievement on nuclear safety for both the Agency and its Member States,” said IAEA Deputy Director General Juan Carlos Lentijo, Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. “Regulators around the world have benefited from the IAEA-led peer review process by addressing areas for improvement identified by the IRRS teams, and by learning from good practices elsewhere. That process has strengthened regulatory effectiveness, which improves nuclear and radiation safety.”

Since the IRRS’s debut 12 years ago in Romania, the IAEA has coordinated missions on six continents. Besides the ongoing review in Hungary, IRRS missions are planned for later this year in Australia, Moldova, the Netherlands and Spain.

While the IAEA offers Member States an array of peer reviews and advisory services, the IRRS remains a key service of the Agency. It is a cross-cutting review of regulatory, technical and policy issues suitable for all countries, regardless of whether they have a nuclear power programme or the extent to which they conduct activities involving the use of ionizing radiation. 

“The strength of the IRRS process is that it’s a review against the IAEA safety standards, which reflect an international consensus on what constitutes a high level of safety for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation,” said Hilaire Mansoux, Section Head for Regulatory Infrastructure and Transport Safety at the IAEA. “In this way, the IRRS has made an important contribution to the international harmonization of nuclear safety practices.”

Looking forward, the IAEA is focused on making IRRS missions even more efficient and effective, in part by combining, when relevant and if so decided by the host country, different peer reviews and services to streamline the process. For example, next month’s IRRS mission to Spain will be combined with an ARTEMIS service, an expert peer review launched in 2017 for radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes.

Additionally, interest in the IRRS is growing among countries seeking to expand or introduce a nuclear power programme. Currently, around 30 countries are preparing or considering new nuclear power programmes. Four countries—Bangladesh, Belarus, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates—have begun construction on their first nuclear power plants.

“There is now a strong interest in the IRRS among countries embarking on nuclear power programmes, for which the development of a regulatory framework and infrastructure for safety is a significant challenge,” said David Senior, Section Head for Regulatory Activities at the IAEA. “The IRRS can help such countries use the IAEA safety standards along their journey of developing a framework for regulating a new nuclear power programme.”

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