Slovenia committed to nuclear safety, says IAEA

14 April 2022

Slovenia is continuously working to further strengthen its mature nuclear and radiation safety framework, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts has concluded. The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission team recommended the government should consider allotting sufficient funding and human resources to the country's nuclear regulators to guarantee their sustained independence and performance.

Members of the IRRS mission team with representatives from SNSA and SRPA (Image: SNSA)

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 recognising the responsibility of each country to ensure nuclear and radiation safety.

The IAEA team today concluded an 11-day mission to assess the governmental, legal and regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Slovenia. The mission was requested by the government of Slovenia. It was hosted by the Slovenian Nuclear Safety Administration (SNSA), the country's nuclear regulatory authority, and the Slovenia Radiation Protection Authority (SRPA) which regulates radiation safety in medicine and veterinary practices. The team comprised 17 people and included experts from Brazil, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta, Pakistan, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as three IAEA staff.

The mission team held a series of interviews and discussions with the SNSA and SRPA, as well as with the Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning and the Minister of Health. The team also observed safety inspections at the Krško nuclear power plant, the Jožef Stefan Research Institute, the Institute of Oncology Ljubljana and the Vrbina waste management facility.

The team identified good practices, including: SNSA's initiative to develop written instructions for licensees on how to participate in successful and effective remote inspections at an early stage of the pandemic; SNSA's web portal which provides on-line dose rate monitoring results and nuclide specific results from environmental samples to the public; and the establishment of a national protection strategy for nuclear and radiological emergencies, which was developed in line with IAEA emergency preparedness and response guidance.

IRRS mission team leader Cantemir Ciurea, president of Romania’s nuclear safety regulator, said: "SNSA and SRPA are well experienced regulators in nuclear and radiation safety and have demonstrated their commitment to continuous improvement." Highlighting the country's emergency exercises using cyber security scenarios as one example of where the country is leading in nuclear safety, Ciurea added that "such scenarios are at the interface between nuclear safety and security and being prepared for these emergencies demonstrates a mature framework for emergency response."

The team also identified several recommendations and suggestions on how the government and the regulators could further enhance the Slovenian regulatory system, including: providing sufficient funding and human resources for both SNSA and SRPA to fulfil their responsibilities; improving coordination between all relevant competent authorities responsible for nuclear and radiation safety and nuclear security; developing guidance for licensees on the use of authorisation request documents; improving training of inspectors to cover principles, concepts and technological aspects of safety inspections and on procedures for inspecting facilities and activities; and developing communication strategies and plans to ensure the stakeholders are informed about their work.

The final IRRS mission report will be provided to the government in about three months.

"We are committed to implement all findings of the mission in the next few years to further improve our safety framework," said SNSA Director Igor Sirc.

"This will strengthen nuclear and radiation safety in Slovenia and make the regulatory body more efficient and resilient to external influences," added SRPA Director Damijan Škrk.

Slovenia hosted an initial IRRS mission in 2011 and a follow-up mission in 2014.

The IRRS mission to Slovenia will be followed by an IAEA Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel, Decommissioning and Remediation (Artemis) mission - scheduled for 22-30 May - which will assess radioactive waste and used fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes in the country.

Slovenia has one nuclear power plant, Krško, which is co-owned by neighbouring Croatia and provides almost 40% of Slovenia's electricity. Slovenia also has one research reactor and a radioactive waste facility, and uses radiation in industry, research and education applications.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News