The IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) is intended to assist Member States to enhance the organisation and performance of national nuclear regulatory bodies. IRRS is a peer review service conducted by a team of international experts with experience directly relevant to the areas of evaluation. The team concentrates on key areas of regulatory activity identified within IAEA safety standards to assess the effectiveness of the regulatory body. The review is not an inspection to determine compliance with national legislation, but is more an objective comparison of national nuclear regulation with international guidelines.
In 2005, the UK government invited the IAEA to review the UK nuclear regulator and undertake a modular approach to the IRRS missions. Over a series of three visits to the UK, relevant modules are assessed to ensure the regulator receives a full scope mission.
In April 2006, the IAEA conducted its first review, followed by a second in 2009, and a third in 2013. These missions found many areas of good practice and implementation of international standards, but also raised recommendations and suggestions to enhance practices. Upon completion of each mission the IAEA presents a final report to the UK government detailing its findings and recommendations.
The IRRS completed its third mission on 9 October 2013. In addition to reviewing the findings from 2006 and 2009, the mission assessed the nuclear safety themes that were not within the scope of the previous missions including; waste management; decommissioning; radioactive sources; radiation protection and lessons from Fukushima. Reviewing these final modules ensured that ONR has received a full scope mission. The IRRS reviewers also assessed compliance with IAEA’s relevant standards and guides, overarching themes included: independence; funding/resource; resilience; competence and integration.
The mission involved an introductory meeting, with high level presentations given to the IRRS team by IAEA, DWP, DECC and ONR. The rest of the mission consisted of information and evidence gathering by holding interviews with ONR technical staff, observation of inspection activities at licensed sites, and interviews with UK nuclear and radiation safety stakeholders.
In the final report from the 2013 mission, the IAEA team commends:
This has meant that 31 out of the 32 recommendations and suggestions made in 2009 were fully addressed and therefore considered as closed which is a strong follow up position. The Report also explicitly highlights six areas in which the IAEA consider that ONR delivers Good Practice. The review team identified 25 new findings (13 recommendations and 12 suggestions) relating to two main themes:
ONR has accepted these as an opportunity to further enhance the regulatory framework and processes, and a detailed ONR programme of work is underway to address them. The IAEA has accepted a proposal from ONR to review progress against the 2013 findings, later in 2014 in order to help further reinforce stakeholder confidence.
The next full scope IRRS mission for the UK is anticipated in 2019 to meet expectations set out in the European Union Nuclear Safety Directive.
The IAEA completed its second IRRS mission in October 2009. During this visit a team of ten international experts reviewed HSE’s Nuclear Directorate’s (ND) progress since the first mission looking at; recent regulatory developments; the regulation of operating power plants; fuel cycle facilities and reviewed additional areas of regulatory activity. The areas reviewed included; inspection and enforcement; emergency preparedness and response; and the proposed transition arrangements to move ND to be a more autonomous body.
The IAEA team concluded that ND had taken initiatives to address the findings from the first IRRS mission in 2006 and areas where improvement options were identified from ND’s self-assessment against IAEA standards. The report included many statements supporting the UK’s approach to nuclear regulation. IAEA found that ND had made progress to improve effectiveness in regulating existing nuclear installations and in preparing to license new nuclear reactors. Many findings identified in the 2006 report were fully addressed and therefore considered as closed. Other findings which remained were addressed in accordance with a programme of work presented to the IRRS team. The second report also included a number of new recommendations to help strengthen the UK regulatory body.
The IRRS supported ONR’s approach to transition to becoming an independent body. The report also highlighted a number of important principles that needed to be taken account of during and after the transition, including; adequate legal authority; effective independence; technical and managerial competence; and, human and financial resources to fulfil all regulatory responsibilities and functions.
With a team of six international experts, the IAEA completed its first visit in April 2006. The mission reviewed HSE’s Nuclear Safety Directorate’s readiness to assess a new generation of nuclear power stations, should the option be taken up. The IAEA’s final report, which helped inform the government’s review of its energy policy, noted a mature and transparent regulatory system and advanced review process, backed up by highly trained, expert and experienced nuclear inspectors.