An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission said the Czech Republic is committed to maintaining and strengthening its robust regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety. The team also identified areas for possible improvements including provisions for ensuring adequate regulatory oversight of safety of new facilities and activities foreseen in the national strategic energy plans such as of new nuclear power plants and small modular reactors.
The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team concluded a 12-day mission to the Czech Republic on 26 May, which is the second full scope IRRS mission hosted by the country. The previous IRRS mission took place in 2013 and its follow up in 2017. The present mission, which also included the optional module on interface with nuclear security, was conducted at the request of the Government of the Czech Republic and hosted by the Government and the State Office for Nuclear Safety (SÚJB), which is responsible for nuclear and radiation safety regulation in the country.
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.
The team, comprising 19 senior regulatory experts from 18 IAEA Member States, as well as three IAEA staff members and one observer, concluded that Czech Republic has a comprehensive and robust regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety with SÚJB acting as a competent regulator focused on a continuous improvement.
The Czech Republic has six operating pressurized water reactors: four VVER-440/V-213 units at Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant and two VVER-1000 units at Temelín Nuclear Power Plant. Nuclear power accounts for almost one-third of the country's electricity production. Spent fuel from the plants and the Prague Technical University research reactor is stored on the premises of these facilities. Low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste from the plants is stored at Dukovany, while waste from other sources is stored at two other smaller sites.
The team reviewed the regulatory oversight of all facilities and activities using nuclear material and radiation sources as well as emergency preparedness and response, transport, decommissioning, and occupational, medical and public exposure control. “Our review concluded that SÚJB works within a comprehensive and robust regulatory framework” said the IRRS team leader Thomas Wildermann, head of department nuclear energy supervision, radiation protection in the Ministry of Environment, Climate Protection and Energy Sector of Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. “I’m also impressed by SÚJB’s strong commitment to improve and adapt its regulatory practices to future challenges.”
During the mission, the team conducted interviews with management and staff from SÚJB and representatives of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. The team also accompanied SÚJB during their inspections and oversight activities at a sealed source manufacturer ISOTREND, a waste management facility DIAMO, the national radiation protection institute SÚRO, the General University Hospital in Prague (VFN), and at research reactors at the Czech Technical University (CTU). The team also visited one of the two operating nuclear power plants in Temelín.
“SÚJB, as the Czech Republic’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority, highly appreciates external independent feedback on our regulatory processes and activities, especially when it comes from a team of knowledgeable experts under the auspices of a reputable international organization such as the IAEA,” said Dana Drábová, Head of SÚJB. “The mission itself and the preparatory process, including the self-assessment activities, were a unique opportunity for SÚJB to enhance the effectiveness of the national safety infrastructure.”
The IRRS team made several recommendations and suggestions to further reinforce continuous improvement and enhance the Czech regulatory system and the effectiveness of the regulatory functions in line with IAEA safety standards.
Recommendations and suggestions for the Government of the Czech Republic include: Review of the framework for safety to include provisions for new types of facilities and activities foreseen in national strategic energy plans such as new nuclear power plants and small modular reactors. Establishment of legal provisions to ensure that nuclear security measures, including cyber security, and safety measures are designed and implemented in an integrated manner.
Recommendations and suggestions for SÚJB include: Development of a plan to ensure availability of qualified and sufficient staff now and in the future. Further development of its integrated management system to strengthen the ability to perform effective regulatory oversight including the periodic conduct of internal audits. Revision of its emergency preparedness and response programme, to include periodic and independent appraisals and guidance on preparation, conduct and evaluation of emergency exercises. Establishment of mechanisms to systematically describe its practice of informing or consulting the public.
The mission will be followed by an IAEA Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) mission – scheduled for October 2023 – which will assess radioactive waste and spent fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes in the country.
The final mission report will be provided to SÚJB in about three months. The Czech Republic plans to make the report public.