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Press Release 2013/01

International Expert Team Concludes IAEA Peer Review of Bulgaria's Regulatory Framework for Nuclear and Radiation Safety

19 April 2013 | Sofia, Bulgaria -- An international team of senior nuclear safety and radiation protection experts today concluded a 12-day mission to review the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Bulgaria.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission, conducted at the request of the Government of Bulgaria, identified a series of good practices and made recommendations to help enhance the overall performance of the regulatory system. IRRS missions, which were initiated in 2006, are peer reviews based on the IAEA Safety Standards; they are not inspections or audits.

"Bulgaria has a clear national policy and strategy for safety, which are well in line with international standards and practices and contribute to a high level of nuclear safety," said Mission Team Leader Marta Ziakova, Chairperson of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of the Slovak Republic.

The mission team, which conducted the review from 8 to 19 April, was made up of 16 senior regulatory experts from 16 nations, and six IAEA staff.

"The results of the IRRS mission will be valuable for the future development and reinforcement of the Bulgarian Nuclear Safety Agency (BNRA). The use of international standards and good practices helps to improve global harmonization in all areas of nuclear safety and radiation protection," said Sergey Tzotchev, Chairman of the BNRA.

Among the main observations in its preliminary report, the IRRS mission team found that BNRA operates as an independent regulatory body and conducts its regulatory processes in an open and transparent manner.

In line with the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, the mission reviewed the regulatory implications for Bulgaria of the March 2011 accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Japan. It found that the BNRA's response to the lessons learned from that accident was both prompt and effective.

Strengths and good practices identified by the IRRS team include the following:

  • A no-blame policy is enshrined in law for the notification of nuclear and radiation safety-related events;
  • Provisions established by the BNRA to manage its technical support organisations provide a good basis to use them effectively;
  • The process to establish and keep updated regulations and guidelines is well structured and involves, as necessary, relevant interested parties;
  • The BNRA has a policy of transparency and openness with the public, which covers in an effective manner the provision of information on safety-related events and protective actions during emergencies; and
  • There is a complete national dose registry system that includes provision for comprehensive information gathering, which allows for thorough cause-effect analyses to be performed.

The IRRS team identified the following areas where the overall performance of the regulatory system could be enhanced:

  • Demarcation of the respective roles of state authorities in the area of radiation protection safety, and establishment of formal coordination and cooperation of their regulatory functions;
  • BNRA's resources and competence for oversight of future facilities and activities;
  • BNRA's establishment of an integrated management system that contributes to meeting its goals in an efficient manner;
  • BNRA procedures used for the review and assessment process for all facilities and activities; and
  • Inspection processes, including the development and implementation of planned and systematic inspection programmes that cover all facilities and activities, and coordination among different regulatory organisations.

A final report will be submitted to the Government of Bulgaria in about three months. The BNRA announced to the mission that the report will be made publicly available.

The IAEA encourages nations to invite a follow-up IRRS mission about two years after the initial mission has been completed.

Background

The team reviewed the legal and regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety, addressing all facilities and activities regulated by BNRA, including six nuclear power units, (two in operation and four in decommissioning), fuel cycle facilities, waste management facilities, and radiation sources in industrial and medical facilities.

The mission included site visits to observe inspections and an emergency exercise, and a series of interviews and discussions with BNRA staff to help assess the effectiveness of the regulatory system.

Team members came from Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom and United States of America.

Quick Facts

Bulgaria has six nuclear power reactors at the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant site, two of which are in operation. As of 2012, nuclear contributed 33.6 per cent of the country's electricity production. Bulgaria has spent fuel storage facilities and waste facilities and there are 1 243 license holders for sources of ionizing radiation for industrial, research and medical applications.

About IRRS Missions

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of the national nuclear regulatory infrastructure of States, while recognizing the ultimate responsibility of each State to ensure safety in this area.

This is done through consideration of both regulatory, technical and policy issues, with comparisons against IAEA Safety Standards and, where appropriate, good practices elsewhere.

More information about IRRS missions is available on the IAEA Website.