What is IRRS?
Regulators throughout the world face significant challenges given the complexity and diversity of activities and practices involving radioactive and nuclear materials and radiation generating devices. Each Member State (State) is ultimately responsible for the safety of facilities, activities and practices involving sources on its own territory, thus there is a growing need to support and strengthen national regulatory bodies and to consider the broader policy implications that these challenges and emerging issues present.
The IAEA’s Fundamental Safety Principles relating to nuclear and radiation risks provide the basis for the IAEA Safety Standards and its safety related programmes. In particular, to support effective regulation, the IAEA has established Safety Standards in the area of governmental, legal and regulatory framework for safety. These Safety Standards provide guiding principles for stakeholders involved in nuclear energy technologies, including a national regulatory body’s authority, independence and competence.
In support of the application of these Safety Standards and to enhance the effectiveness of the national regulatory infrastructure for safety, the IAEA has established ‘Integrated Regulatory Review Service’ (IRRS). It provides a peer evaluation of the host state’s regulatory infrastructures in relation to the IAEA Safety Standards by offering an integrated approach to the review of common aspects of the national, legal and governmental framework and the regulatory infrastructure for safety. Being one of the many review services offered by the IAEA to Member States, and thus to avoid any potential overlap of the topics addressed in such services, the IRRS combines the common regulatory infrastructure elements of the various safety review services offered by the IAEA, resulting in a cross-cutting review of the regulatory oversight of all facilities and activities utilizing radiation technologies in the receiving State.
Read more on IRRS Structure.
Within reasonable and necessary variations among national regulatory systems, there is no absolute measure of the adequacy and effectiveness of the systems in all countries. Notable differences are inevitable between the regulatory infrastructures of States having one or more nuclear installations and a large number and variety of practices using radiation sources relative to those States having no nuclear installations and relatively few practices using radiation sources. The regulatory approach and requirements may differ significantly between these two extremes.
However, the IRRS regulatory review process provides the opportunity for a peer review of both regulatory technical and policy issues in any State regardless of the level of development of its activities and practices involving ionizing radiation or nuclear programme, and thus it enables an objective comparison of the national regulatory infrastructure against IAEA standards and guidelines according to a graded approach.
The regulatory review process evaluates as objectively as possible, the State’s regulatory infrastructure for safety with respect to IAEA standards, and provides recommendations and suggestions for improvement. An expert peer review of the current extent of compliance with IAEA standards provides a good indicator of the effectiveness of the regulatory oversight of nuclear, radiation, radioactive waste and transport safety.
The regulatory review process usually consists of an IRRS mission addressing all relevant areas, facilities and activities regulated in the State, with a follow-up IRRS mission no more than four years later to review progress in implementing the suggestions and recommendations of the initial IRRS mission. Preparation for the IRRS mission includes a self-assessment conducted by the State in accordance with the IAEA self-assessment methodology. The IRRS mission is an IAEA coordinated peer review conducted by a team of international reviewers led by a senior regulator from a Member State. The review is structured to lead to the identification of areas for improvement and the formulation by the host country of an action plan to address identified deficiencies.
A follow-up mission is undertaken in due course, by which the host country and IRRS review team assess progress with implementing the recommendations and suggestions in the action plan in the period since the initial review. The IRRS follow-up mission may also provide the opportunity for the IAEA, international reviewers and host country peers to identify additional regulatory technical and policy issues for review, to identify further good practices and provide input for the review of IAEA Safety Standards.
Objectives and Benefits of the IRRS
The IRRS offers states a means to assess through peer review, the status of national regulatory infrastructure against the IAEA Safety Standards. The team of international reviewers participating in an IRRS have direct experience applicable to all aspects of the agreed scope of the review.
The objectives of an IRRS mission are to enhance nuclear and radiation safety and regulatory effectiveness by:
providing an opportunity for continuous improvement of the national regulatory body through an integrated process of self-assessment and review;
providing the host country (regulatory body and governmental authorities) with a review of its regulatory technical and policy issues;
providing the host country (regulatory body and governmental authorities) with an objective evaluation of its regulatory infrastructure with respect to IAEA Safety Standards;
promoting the sharing of experience and exchange of lessons learned among senior regulators;
providing key staff in the host country with an opportunity to discuss regulatory practices with IRRS Review Team members who have experience of other regulatory practices in the same field;
providing the host country with recommendations and suggestions for improvement;
providing other states with information regarding good practices identified in the course of the review;
providing reviewers from Member States and IAEA staff with opportunities to observe different approaches to regulatory oversight and to broaden knowledge in their own field (mutual learning process);
contributing to the harmonization of regulatory approaches among states;
promoting the application of IAEA Safety Requirements; and
providing feedback on the use and application of the IAEA Safety Standards.
These objectives are consistent with the development and application of self-assessment methodologies as component parts of regulatory body management systems, including the IAEA Self-Assessment Methodology and its associated tools such as the Self-Assessment of Regulatory Infrastructure for Safety tool (SARIS) (also see Resources).