Estonia strengthens regulation, IAEA mission finds

11 March 2019

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said today that Estonia has strengthened its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in the last two years. 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.

Estonia has no nuclear power plants, but it uses 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, the IAEA said.

The IRRS team was led by Stavroula Vogiatzi, a senior regulator in the 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," Vogiatzi said.

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 authorisation, inspection and enforcement; and improve the information sharing system between the Environmental Board and Environmental Inspectorate.

According to the IAEA statement, Harry Liiv, deputy secretary general of the Ministry of Environment, said the country had strengthened its national legislation by adopting a new radiation act in 2016 and renewing its regulations. He added that implementation of some of the recommendations made during the 2016 mission “is a long-term process”, which has been addressed in Estonia’s National Radiation Safety Development Plan for 2018-2027.

The team recommended 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.

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 and the government plans to make the report public.

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.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News