Some of the international conventions require Parties to report 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. It is a service the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) provides to its member states to improve and further develop nuclear safety worldwide.

Core elements of an IRRS mission include a self-assessment of the national legislative, enforcement and organisational framework for the safety of nuclear installations, conducted by member states in preparation for the mission, and a subsequent review by international experts during the mission.

IRRS missions work like this:

In a first step, countries carry out a self-assessment based on the IAEA Safety Standards. The outcomes are evaluated and a national action plan for the improvement of nuclear oversight is developed. The self-assessment, the national action plan and background information (laws, ordinances, nuclear rules and regulations) make up the Advance Reference Material (ARM), a file that is sent to the international team of experts (IRRS Review Team) prior to the mission. The international experts work for nuclear regulatory authorities in other countries and are therefore familiar with the type of responsibilities and work involved.

The mission runs for two weeks. During the mission, the experts conduct interviews with representatives of regulatory bodies, independent expert organisations and power plant operators. The mission also includes site visits to nuclear installations to allow reviewers to understand the specific supervisory activities. The IAEA experts draw up a report presenting their analysis. The report contains recommendations and suggestions on areas where the international experts see room for improvement. It also lists good practices, i.e. areas in which the national regulatory authorities exceed international standards. A follow-up mission is conducted two to four years after the first mission to review whether the recommendations and suggestions have been implemented. Usually, most of the experts in the follow-up mission already took part in the first mission.

Germany already hosted an IRRS mission in 2008 and a follow-up mission in 2011. More information about the IRRS Mission 2008 and 2011 in Germany.

IRRS mission 2019

A second IRRS mission will take place in Germany from 31 March to 12 April 2019. The mission is intended to ensure compliance with Council Directive 2014/87/Euratom amending Directive 2009/71/Euratom, under which EU member states are obliged, to carry out self-assessments, at least every ten years; of their national legislative, enforcement and organisational frameworks for the safety of nuclear installations and invite an international peer review of their national frameworks.
Directive 2009/70/Euratom contains the same obligation for the area of management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. To meet this obligation, a mission of the IAEA Radioactive Waste Management Integrated Review Service (ARTEMIS) has been arranged for the end of September 2019. The scope of the IRRS mission was extended to include nuclear waste management in order to create synergies. The findings of the IRRS mission regarding waste management will also be used for the ARTEMIS mission, leaving ARTEMIS to focus on Germany's national programme for the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

Both federal and Land-level regulatory authorities will be involved in the IRRS mission. This includes the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU), the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BfE) and the regulatory authorities from Baden‑Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, Mecklenburg‑Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, North Rhine‑Westphalia and Schleswig‑Holstein. Baden‑Württemberg and Schleswig‑Holstein have taken on lead responsibility for the Länder, coordinating the tasks in the areas of licensing, supervision, inspection and enforcement of regulatory measures.

Preparations for the 2019 IRRS mission

As mentioned above, the IRRS mission starts with a self-assessment of the national regulatory and supervisory system.

The self-assessment was based on a catalogue of 670 questions. The first step was to check the German licensing and supervisory practice against the requirements laid down in the IAEA Safety Standards. The questions were answered in a second step. As the catalogue of questions was so comprehensive, the authorities involved divided the work between them and then coordinated the answers. It took about 17 months in total to complete the self-assessment.

Gaps found during the self-assessment and measures to address them were set out in the national action plan. Actions specified in the plan cover areas like personnel management and maintaining expertise, greater international involvement and updating nuclear rules and regulations.

The self-assessment (answers to the questionnaire and summaries), the national action plan, relevant laws and regulations and documents illustrating the organisation and workflow of the nuclear licensing and supervisory authorities were compiled to make up the ARM and submitted to the IAEA by 31 January 2019.

Preparatory meeting for the 2019 IRRS mission

Members of the German IRRS team, IAEA representatives and the team leader and deputy team leader of the mission held a preparatory meeting in Bonn on 25 and 26 September 2018. The goal was for the participants to get to know each other and discuss the scope and focus of the mission, the schedule, site visits to installations and other logistical and administrative aspects.

IRRS mission from 31 March to 12 April 2019

The IRRS mission took place from 31 March to 12 April 2019. The licensing and regulatory authorities of the Federation, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein answered questions from a high-level international team of experts from regulatory bodies and the IAEA. The aim was to ascertain how far Germany's nuclear legislation and regulatory practices meet the requirements of international safety standards.

Over the course of the mission, the team held many interviews with representatives of the participating authorities. They also talked with Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze and Helmfried Meinel, director-general in the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of the Environment, Climate Protection and the Energy Sector. The international experts were able to form a more detailed picture of German inspection practices by accompanying an inspection in the Neckarwestheim shared-ownership power plant (GKN).

The results of the two-week mission were set out in a report which the IAEA submitted to Germany in mid-July 2019.

The international team of experts confirmed that Germany's nuclear regulatory system meets the IAEA's international Safety Standards. The IRRS team judged the nuclear licensing and regulatory authorities of the Federation and Länder to be mature and competent, also highlighting the effective cooperation with other organisations and groups. The report identified areas of exemplary practice and areas with excellent implementation of the international Safety Standards. In six recommendations and 25 suggestions, the experts also noted areas with potential for improvement. Most of the recommendations and suggestions had already been put forward in the National Action Plan drawn up by the German authorities prior to the IRRS mission. They relate to the following topics: Maintaining competence in nuclear safety up to and beyond the nuclear phase-out, further development of the safety standards for research reactors, decommissioning and waste management, improving management systems through regular assessments and independent reviews.

Over the coming years, the licensing and regulatory authorities of the Federation and Länder will be tasked with developing and implementing measures based on the recommendations and suggestions. This work will also serve to prepare for the follow-up mission.