IAEA makes recommendations to Belarusian regulator

18 October 2016

Continued government backing and resources are needed to further build the Belarusian nuclear safety regulator's technical capabilities ahead of the start up of the country's first nuclear power reactor, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team has concluded.

The 21-member team carried out an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission between 2-14 October to assess the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Belarus. This was the first IRRS mission to the country.

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national radiation safety regulatory infrastructure, while recognizing the responsibility of each member state to ensure nuclear and radiation safety. The missions compare regulatory technical and policy issues with IAEA safety standards and, where appropriate, good practices elsewhere. The regulatory review process also draws directly upon the wide-ranging international experience and expertise of the regulatory review team members. The review results in a report that identifies good practices and provides recommendations and suggestions for improvement.

Belarus' Ministry for Emergency Situations and its Department for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (Gosatomnadzor) are responsible for nuclear and radiation safety regulation in the country.

The IRRS team concluded Belarus has a regulatory framework for safety in place and found two good practices. The first is that Belarus is using "innovative tools and approaches to manage Gosatomnadzor's growth and build a healthy organizational culture". Secondly, it said there are arrangements to ensure collaboration and information exchange between ministries, the regulators, operator and main contractors during the construction and commissioning of the nuclear power plant.

The IAEA team also made 25 recommendations and 20 suggestions for Belarus to improve its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety. These include developing national policy and strategy for safety and establishing a strategy for radioactive waste management for facilities and activities other than nuclear power plants. It also recommended Belarus ensures consistency of its regulations and continues to develop or revise them as necessary to meet IAEA safety standards.

Team leader Petteri Tiippana, director general of Finland's Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk), said: "Belarus faces the challenge to regulate the safe operation of its first nuclear power plant. Numerous measures are under way to further strengthen the regulatory body's capabilities. It is essential that the government continues to support these important activities."

Belarus minister for emergency situations Vladimir Vaschenko said, "The government of Belarus sees nuclear and radiation safety as a key priority in accordance with the IAEA's fundamental principle of safety first." He added, "The findings are in line with the results of our self-assessment. We have a common understanding of IAEA safety standards and how to achieve them. The outcome of the IRRS mission will help Belarus further strengthen its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety."

The final IRRS mission report will be submitted to the government of Belarus in a few months' time, the IAEA said. It noted Belarusian authorities have said they plan to make the report's executive summary public.

Two Russian-designed VVER-1200 AES-2006 units are under construction at the Ostrovets plant in the Grodno region of Belarus. Operation of the first unit is scheduled for November 2018 and the second unit in July 2020, to give 2340 MWe net capacity on line.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News