An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Germany is committed to strengthening its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety. The team also noted areas for further enhancement.
The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team on 12 April concluded a two-week mission to review the regulatory safety framework in Germany. The mission was conducted at the request of the Government of Germany and hosted by the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). The team of senior nuclear and radiation safety experts also met with representatives of the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management, Federal Office for Radiation Protection and authorities from seven state governments.
Using IAEA safety standards and international good practices, IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national regulatory infrastructure, while recognizing the responsibility of each country to ensure nuclear and radiation safety.
Germany, which currently operates seven nuclear power reactors, aims to end commercial nuclear power operations by the end of 2022. The country has another 29 power reactors in permanent shutdown that will require dismantling and decommissioning and has begun a process to select a site for disposal of high level radioactive waste. Germany also operates seven research reactors for research and medical isotope production.
“Germany has demonstrated a strong commitment to nuclear and radiation safety during a period of significant transition,” said team leader Dan Dorman, Deputy Executive Director of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the United States. “This team has identified a number of opportunities to clarify guidance within the regulatory framework to promote efficiency and consistency while maintaining a high level of safety.”
The IRRS team said Germany has strong practices and processes in place that ensure comprehensive regulatory oversight.
“I am very pleased that the most recent IRRS mission confirms that our nuclear supervision meets international requirements. Even though Germany has decided to phase out nuclear energy, the safety of our nuclear facilities remains a top priority for us,” said Svenja Schulze, Minister for BMU. “Moreover, we want to be able to support our neighbouring countries as a competent partner even after the phase-out. This is very important since nuclear hazards cannot be contained by national borders.”
The review covered the following areas: responsibilities and functions of the government; the global nuclear safety regime; responsibilities and functions of the regulatory body; BMU’s management system and activities including authorization, review and assessment, inspection, enforcement and the development of regulations and guides; emergency preparedness and response; occupational radiation protection; fuel cycle and radioactive waste management facilities and decommissioning.
The 21-member team comprised 17 senior regulatory experts from 16 countries as well as four IAEA staff members.
“This mission raises awareness about Germany’s ongoing work to enhance regulatory effectiveness and its commitment to implement the IAEA safety standards, which serve as the basis for IRRS reviews,” said Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.
The team identified a good practice in Germany’s emergency preparedness arrangements, which allow all levels of Government to access necessary information at any time.
The team provided recommendations and suggestions to the regulatory authorities, including:
- They should assess leadership for safety and safety culture on a regular basis.
- They should establish requirements for the periodic review and update of safety assessments during immediate dismantling.
- They should include requirements for addressing public inputs during the process of termination of the decommissioning license.
In addition, the IRRS team identified several other areas where further regulatory guidance would be helpful as the country transitions out of nuclear power. They include managing necessary changes to sustain the relevance of the regulatory framework and to support its efficient and consistent application across regulatory authorities.
The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about three months. The Government plans to make the report public.