Under the terms of Article III of its Statute, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has the mandate to establish or adopt, in consultation and, where appropriate, in collaboration with competent organizations, standards of safety for protection of health and minimization of danger to life and property (including such standards for labor conditions), and to provide for the application of these standards to its own operations as well as to assisted operations and, at the request of the parties, to operations under bilateral or multilateral arrangements or, at the request of a State, to any of that State’s activities concerning peaceful nuclear and radiation activities. This includes the publication of a set of Safety Standards, whose effective implementation is essential for ensuring a high level of safety. As part of its providing for the application of safety standards, the IAEA provides Safety Review and Appraisal Services, at the request of Member States, which are directly based on its Safety Standards.
In the regulatory framework and activities of the regulatory bodies, The IAEA had previously offered five distinct peer review and appraisal services applicable to a Member State´s legal and governmental infrastructure, comprised of reviews based on regulatory, radiation safety, transport safety, nuclear security and emergency preparedness. These included: (a) the International Regulatory Review Team (IRRT) programme that provided advice and assistance to Member States to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of their legal and governmental infrastructure for nuclear safety; (b) the Radiation Safety and Security Infrastructure Appraisal (RaSSIA) that assessed the effectiveness of the national regulatory infrastructure for radiation safety including the safety and security of radioactive sources; (c) the Transport Safety Appraisal Service (TranSAS) that appraises the implementation of the IAEA’s Transport Regulations; (d) the Emergency Preparedness Review (EPREV) that reviews both preparedness in the case of nuclear accidents and radiological emergencies and the appropriate legislation; and (e) the International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) that reviews the effectiveness of State systems of physical protection and to provide advice and assistance to strengthen and enhance these systems.
The IAEA recognized that these services and appraisals had many areas in common, particularly concerning the requirements on a State to establish a comprehensive regulatory framework within its legal and governmental infrastructure and on a State’s regulatory activities as well as for countries embarking on nuclear power. Consequently, the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security has developed an integrated approach to the conduct of missions on legal and governmental infrastructure to improve their efficiency, effectiveness and consistency and to provide greater flexibility in defining the scope of the review, taking into account regulatory technical and policy issues.
The IRRS concept was developed at the IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security and then discussed at the 3rd review meeting of the Contracting Parties of the Convention on Nuclear Safety in 2005. The IRRS was strongly supported during the Boards of Governors and the IAEA General Conference. The IAEA regulatory peer reviews are now recognized as a good opportunity to exchange professional experience and to share lessons learned and good practices. The self-assessment performed prior to the IAEA peer review mission is an opportunity for Member States to assess their regulatory practices against the IAEA safety standards. These IAEA peer review benefits were further discussed at the International Conference on ‘Effective Nuclear Regulatory Systems’ in Moscow in 2006, at which note was taken of the value of IRRS for the development of the Global Nuclear Safety Regime by providing for the sharing of good regulatory practices and policies for the development and harmonization of safety standards, and by supporting the application of the continuous improvement process. All findings coming from the Convention on Nuclear Safety review meetings and from the Moscow conference are inputs for the IRRS to consider when reviewing regulatory technical and policy issues.
IRRS missions fall into only two categories: Reduced Scope and Full Scope, both follow the same process defined in the IRRS Guidelines: preparatory meeting, self-assessment phase, conduct of the mission, and follow-up mission after 24 to 48 months of main IRRS mission.
The development of the IRRS started following the joint peer review mission (IRRT and RaSSIA) to Romania in January 2006. Since then, more than forty missions have been conducted and more requests are coming for the upcoming years. Also several workshops on the lessons learnt from previous IRRS missions have been carried out, with very positive results and valuable feedback to improve the future IRRS missions.
The IAEA is compiling information on findings from the IRRS missions to be used for further development and harmonization of safety standards and by the Member States for continuous improvement in the regulatory practices and policies.