An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team of experts has completed a seven-day follow-up mission to review Armenia’s implementation of recommendations and suggestions made during an initial mission in 2015.

The team said  Armenia has made progress in strengthening its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety, but that the country still faces challenges, including a shortage of qualified and experienced staff at the regulatory body.

The 12-member IRRS team was made up of senior regulatory experts from Argentina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Romania, Switzerland, Ukraine and the USA, as well as three IAEA staff members.

Armenian Nuclear Power Plant (ANPP) in Metsamor currently provides 40% of the country’s electricity.  Metsamor 1 was permanently shut down in 1989. However, the operating licence for Metsamor 2 has been extended until 2021 subject to annual safety demonstrations. Preparations are also under way for requesting an additional extension until 2026. Armenia also has a dry spent fuel storage facility, a radioactive waste storage facility, and uses radioactive sources in medicine, industry and research.

“Armenia has made substantial progress in developing a policy and a strategy for safety,” noted IRRS team leader Hans Wanner, who is director general of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI).  However, he added that the Nuclear and Radiation Armenia Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ANRA) “faces a critical situation related to human resources”. He said ANRA and its technical and support organisation, the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Centre (NRSC), are not financially competitive compared with the industry and ANPP. “There is an urgent need to address this issue.”

The team said that since 2015 Armenia has taken "key steps forward" by adopting a strategy for spent fuel and radioactive waste management, and by intensifying inspections related to emergency preparedness and response. However, it noted that Armenia is still addressing some other recommendations from the 2015 mission, in part because the country is undertaking a comprehensive legislative review process, including on a new Atomic Law.

The team acknowledged that ANRA faces many challenges in regulating nuclear safety, including implementation of findings related to a European Union 'stress tests' in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident.
IRRS suggested that ANRA should upgrade its management system in line with IAEA safety standards.

ANRA chairman Ashot Martirosyan said the IRRS mission would help the organisation to make decisions towards further improvement of the national regulatory framework for safety, in line with IAEA safety standards. He also accepted that ANRA should first resolve the staffing problem adding that measures were already under way to resolve this issue.

Date: Monday, 24 June 2019
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