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European and international reporting requirements and peer reviews

Some of the international conventions require Parties to report and to carry out peer reviews at regular intervals on the fulfilment of their obligations.

Furthermore, under Article 37 of the Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom Treaty), each EU member state is required to provide the European Commission with such general data relating to any plan for the disposal of radioactive waste in whatever form as will make it possible to determine whether the implementation of the plan is liable to result in the radioactive contamination of the water, soil or airspace of another member state. The European Commission delivers an opinion on the basis of these general data. These Commission opinions are published in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Topical Peer Review (TPR)

Pursuant to Article 8e (2) and (3) of Council Directive 2014/87/Euratom amending Directive 2009/71/Euratom establishing a Community framework for the nuclear safety of nuclear installations, EU member states are obligated to carry out topical peer reviews every six years starting in 2017.

The procedure for the upcoming topical peer reviews (TPRs) has largely been based on the procedure for the stress tests that were carried out after the Fukushima accident. In case of the TPR, the focus is on specific aspects of nuclear safety. The TPRs have to be carried out in various steps, publishing the relevant results after each step in the following way:

EU member states perform a national assessment for the installations in their country that are relevant for the topic in question, and they draw up a report.

  • The other member states, and the Commission as observer, carry out the peer review of the national assessment.
  • In the following, the necessary follow-up measures will be agreed

Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS)

What is an IRRS mission?

IRRS stands for Integrated Regulatory Review Service and it is a service offered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to its member states for improving and further developing nuclear safety worldwide. Core elements of an IRRS mission are the self-assessment of the national legislative, regulatory and organizational framework with regards to nuclear safety of nuclear facilities by the Member State in the run-up to the mission and the subsequent review by an international team of experts in the sense of a peer review during the mission.

EU Member States have committed themselves, in accordance with Directive 2009/71/Euratom as amended by Directive 2014/87/Euratom, to carry out a self-assessment of the national legislative, regulatory and organizational framework for, inter alia, nuclear safety of nuclear installations at least every ten years and to invite a subsequent review by international experts. The Heads of Nuclear Regulatory Authorities of the EU Member States have agreed to use the IAEA service of the IRRS Mission as a tool to implement the above commitment.

The process of an IRRS mission

As a first step, a national self-assessment of the supervision system is to be carried out on the basis of the IAEA regulatory framework - the IAEA Safety Standards. Subsequently, the answers are to be evaluated and a National Action Plan for improving national supervision is to be developed. The Self-Assessment, the National Action Plan as well as background material (laws, regulations, nuclear rules, etc.) are to be compiled as so-called Advance Reference Material (ARM) and forwarded to the international team of experts before the mission is carried out. The international team of experts consists of employees of nuclear authorities in other countries and of the IAEA, who are familiar with the task and its performance or who have been trained by the IAEA as reviewers.

The mission itself lasts two weeks. During the mission, the team of experts conducts interviews with employees of the supervisory authorities, the expert organizations and the operators. The supervisory activities in individual nuclear facilities are also comprehended on site. As a result of the IRRS mission, the IAEA expert team prepares a report. It contains recommendations and suggestions in which areas there is room for improvement in the view of the international team of experts, but also in which areas the national nuclear supervisory authorities are above the international benchmark (good practice).

After the initial mission, the National Action Plan is revised in such a way that the recommendations and suggestions of the initial mission are evaluated and corresponding implementation measures are defined. The follow-up mission reviews and evaluates the implementation of the recommendations and suggestions made in the meantime. The follow-up mission takes place at intervals of two to four years after the mission. Usually, most members of the expert team have already participated in the original mission.

IRRS missions in Germany

In Germany, an IRRS mission was carried out for the first time in 2008 and a follow-up mission in 2011 on a voluntary basis.

A second mission took place in 2019 in fulfilment of the EU legal obligation under Directive 2009/71/Euratom as amended by Directive 2014/87/Euratom. The subsequent follow-up mission was carried out in Bonn from 9 to 16 October 2023. This concluded the second cycle of the peer review process, which is mandatory within the EU every ten years.