An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team has found Poland’s nuclear regulatory framework to be in line with IAEA safety standards and that its regulatory body is competent and prepared for the launch of Poland’s first NPP programme. The team noted, however, that the government must take robust measures to ensure the regulatory body is independent and properly resourced.

The 12-day mission was conducted at the request of the Government of Poland and hosted by the Panstwowa Agencja Atomistyki (PAA), the main regulatory body. The team reviewed Poland’s governmental, legal and regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety against IAEA safety standards. It was the second IRRS mission to Poland, following one held in 2013. The mission team consisted of 15 senior regulatory experts from 14 countries, as well as four IAEA staff members and one observer from the European Commission.

Construction of Poland’s first nuclear power plant is planned to begin in 2026 at Lubiatowo-Kopalino in the province of Pomerania. As set out in Polish Nuclear Power Programme, there will be up to six reactors in two or three locations in the country with total generation capacity of 6 to 9 GWe. All units are expected to be online by 2040.

Poland currently operates a single research reactor, MARIA, has a research reactor, EWA, under decommissioning and two used fuel storage facilities, all located in Otwock, near Warsaw. Industry, medicine and research applications of radioactive sources are widely used. The National Radioactive Waste Repository, in the town of Rozan, is a near-surface repository for radioactive waste and sealed radioactive sources disposal operated by Radioactive Waste Management Plant (ZUOP).

The team met with the PAA and also held meetings with the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Ministry of Climate & Environment, the Military Preventive Medicine Centre of the Ministry of National Defence, the Ministry of the Interior & Administration, the State Regional Sanitary Inspection in Warsaw and the National Centre for Radiation Protection in Health Care.

The experts also observed regulatory inspections and oversight activities at the MARIA Research Reactor operated by the National Centre for Nuclear Research, the Maria Sklodowska-Curie National Research Institute of Oncology medical facility and the EWA research reactor under decommissioning, operated by ZUOP. These visits included discussions with management and staff of the facilities.

The team concluded that the PAA is a competent regulatory body whose staff are committed to deliver their regulatory statutory obligations effectively and to prepare to embark on a nuclear power programme in line with international safety standards.

"This is a major milestone for Poland, which has been considering a nuclear power programme for many years. The PAA's commitment to safety, as demonstrated throughout this second IRRS mission, is essential to ensuring that any NPPs built in Poland are operated safely and securely,” said Mike King, Deputy Office Director for Reactor Safety Programs & Mission Support at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the IRRS Team Leader.

Poland’s simulation exercise of the regulatory assessment of an application for a licence to build and operate a NPP, and the issuance of such a licence – including participation from international experts – in 2018 and 2019 was signalled as a good practice by the IRRS team. The team said it enabled the PAA to enhance its competences for the licensing of a nuclear power programme, to identify priorities for further developing the safety infrastructure and to better prepare for several practical issues that may be encountered during licensing of the first nuclear plant in Poland.

In addition, the team identified good practices and performances conducted by Poland, including:

The training of 300 Regional Sanitary Inspectorates staff on how to effectively inform the public on radon related issues.The communication strategy of the PAA to interact effectively with its interested parties.The installation of 30 additional radiation monitoring stations close to its border to improve radioactivity detection capability.

The IRRS team considers that the main challenge in Poland is to implement robust measures to ensure that the PAA is effectively independent and continues to be properly resourced. Additionally, the IRRS team said the government should:

Ensure the availability of financial resources to enable the timely decommissioning of research reactors.Improve coordination and cooperation between different regulatory authorities with responsibilities for facilities and activities in Poland.Address the need for additional medical physicists for ensuring radiation protection of workers, patients and the public in medical treatments using radiation.Provide the PAA with the authority to amend licences on its own initiative without the documented consent from the authorised party.

The team added recommendations for the PAA including its need to establish an integrated overarching human resource plan, including the identification of financial resources to implement it.

“We would like to thank the IRRS team for their intensive work during last two weeks, the results of which will help us to further enhance the overall effectiveness of the regulatory system in Poland,” said Andrzej Glowacki, President of PAA. “The IAEA’s recommendations and suggestions are very valuable to any country that is embarking on nuclear power, and identified areas of good practice and performance can only confirm that we are truly devoted to the development of our regulatory competences”.

The final mission report will be provided to PAA in about three months. Poland plans to make the report public.

Date: Wednesday, 20 September 2023
Original article: neimagazine.com/news/newsiaea-mission-reviews-polands-regulatory-framework-11157966