An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Estonia has strengthened its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety since 2016. The team also noted areas for potential further enhancement.
The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team on 9 March concluded a six-day follow-up mission to review Estonia’s implementation of recommendations and suggestions made during an initial IRRS mission in 2016. The follow-up mission was conducted at the request of the Government of Estonia and hosted by the Ministry of Environment and the Environmental Board.
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.
While Estonia has no nuclear power plants, it utilizes radioactive sources in medical, industrial and research applications. The country maintains an interim storage facility for radioactive waste and the Government is in the process of selecting a site for a planned permanent waste disposal facility.
“Estonia has effectively addressed the findings of the initial mission in 2016 and made significant progress in enhancing its regulatory framework,” said team leader Stavroula Vogiatzi, Senior Regulator, Licensing and Inspection Department of the Greek Atomic Energy Commission. “While the country needs to further enhance the regulatory framework, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Social Affairs have already shown a commitment to continuous improvement.”
The team found that since 2016, the Ministry of Environment has taken positive steps to:
- Update the national safety policy and strategy and the regulatory framework for medical, occupational and public radiation exposure, in line with IAEA safety standards.
- Set clear responsibilities for the inspection of medical facilities between the Health Board and Environmental Inspectorate.
- Develop guidance documents to review and assess applications for authorization, inspection and enforcement.
- Improve the information sharing system between the Environmental Board and Environmental Inspectorate.
“The results of this IRRS follow-up mission gave us reassurance that we are on the right track with our regulatory system improvements,” said Harry Liiv, Deputy Secretary General of the Ministry of Environment. “We have strengthened our national legislation by adopting a new radiation act in 2016 and renewing its regulations. while implementation of some of the recommendations made during the 2016 Mission is a long term process. This is addressed in our National Radiation Safety Development Plan for 2018-2027.”
The team also provided new recommendations and suggestions for further enhancement of the national legal and regulatory framework for safety, including that the Government and Environmental Board should ensure generic justifications for radiological procedures; provide sustainable radiation safety education and training; and enhance safety leadership to foster and sustain a strong safety culture.
“Estonia was well prepared to receive this IRRS mission by establishing a National Radiation Safety Development Plan,” said Peter Johnston, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Radiation, Transport and Waste Safety. “The plan demonstrates a long-term commitment to continuously improve radiation safety for the protection of the people and the environment of Estonia.”
The eight-member IRRS team comprised senior regulatory experts from Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia and Sweden as well as two IAEA staff members.
The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about three months. The Government plans to make the report public.