Lithuania has strengthened its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in recent years, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts has concluded. The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team yesterday completed a 17-day virtual follow-up mission to review the country's implementation of recommendations and suggestions made during an initial IRRS mission in 2016.Lithuania's shut-down Ignalina nuclear power plant (Image: VATESI)
IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national nuclear and radiation safety regulatory infrastructure, based on IAEA safety standards and international good practices, while recognising the responsibility of each country to ensure nuclear and radiation safety.
The follow-up IRRS mission to Lithuania was conducted at the request of the government and hosted by two Lithuanian authorities: the State Nuclear Power Safety Inspectorate (VATESI) and the Radiation Protection Centre (RSC).
The IRRS team said the Lithuanian authorities showed a strong commitment to nuclear and radiation safety and have taken active steps to address the recommendations and suggestions identified in 2016. In addition to an improved integration of IAEA safety standards into the legal framework on radiation protection, the review team welcomed the fact that the framework had been amended to increase public involvement in regulatory decision-making.
"The team was particularly impressed with how graded approaches have been applied throughout the regulatory framework since 2016, allowing VATESI and RSC to focus their attention even better on where the risks and hazards are greatest," said IRRS team leader Anthony Hart, technical director at the UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation.
The team said there was still room for further improvement, particularly in finalising some of the arrangements needed for regulating the future management of Lithuania's radioactive waste and its eventual disposal.
"The improvement of the radiation protection infrastructure in Lithuania has been a continuous process," said Ramunė Marija Stasiūnaitienė, acting director of the RSC. "Though we will face new challenges in the future, we are pleased that our efforts and achievements have been positively assessed by international experts."
The final mission report will be provided to the Lithuanian government in about three months. The government will make the report public.
The two reactors at Lithuania's Ignalina nuclear power plant were permanently shut down in 2004 and 2009, respectively, and are undergoing decommissioning. Used fuel storage and radioactive waste management facilities are being constructed and are in operation in the country. In addition, radioactive sources are used in medicine, research and industry.
The latest mission to Lithuania was the first IRRS mission to be organised completely online owing to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its duration was extended due to its virtual nature and to accommodate the time difference between team members, comprising seven senior regulatory experts from Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Slovenia and the UK, and five IAEA staff members.
"The IAEA's work to help strengthen nuclear safety has not stopped during the pandemic," said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. "When restrictions mean our experts cannot travel, the agency has adapted its arrangements to allow our peer review and advisory services to be conducted virtually. In this way, we can continue to assist countries in implementing the highest levels of nuclear safety despite the current limitations related to travel and face-to-face meetings."
Researched and written by World Nuclear News