IAEA encourages further improvement at Paks plant

21 October 2016

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts has concluded that the Paks nuclear power plant has improved operational safety by following recommendations and suggestions made in a 2014 IAEA review, but noted that further work is needed. The Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) completed a five-day follow-up mission to the four-unit plant in central Hungary today.

The five-member team comprised experts from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the IAEA. Fuming Jiang, the team's leader and a senior nuclear safety officer at the IAEA, said he encouraged the plant "to continue its work to ensure sustainable improvement".

Several recommendations and suggestions from the 2014 review that have been fully implemented at Paks include: improvements in the control and storage of maintenance equipment and material; enhanced identification and reporting of deficiencies of systems and components; and better management of chemicals and other substances.

Recommendations and suggestions that require further work include: reinforcements in safety conscious behaviour of staff; improvements in the operating experience program; and improvements in contractor management.

The team has provided a draft of its report to Paks plant management, which – together with the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority - will "have an opportunity to make factual comments" to be reviewed by the IAEA. The final report will be submitted to the Hungarian Government within about three months, the Vienna-based agency said.

An OSART mission is designed as a review of programs and activities essential to operational safety. It is not a regulatory inspection, nor is it a design review or a substitute for an exhaustive assessment of the plant's overall safety status. The IAEA says on its website that OSART missions "aim to improve operational safety by objectively assessing safety performance using the IAEA's Safety Standards and proposing recommendations and suggestions for improvement where appropriate". The follow-up missions are "standard components" of the OSART program and are typically conducted within two years of the initial mission.

Paks currently comprises four Russian-supplied VVER-440 pressurized water reactors, which started up between 1982 and 1987. An inter-governmental agreement signed in early 2014 would see Russian enterprises and their international sub-contractors supply two VVER-1200 reactors at Paks, as well as a Russian state loan of up to €10.0 billion ($11.2 billion) to finance 80% of the project.

Attila Aszódi, the government commissioner responsible for Paks II, said in late September that the European Commission is expected to issue a decision "within weeks" on Hungary's plan to build the two additional reactors at Paks. The European Commission has been examining until recently two matters related to Paks II - procurement and whether funding of the project amounts to state aid. Aszódi told World Nuclear News today that Hungary is still waiting to receive the decision.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News