The Argentine regulator’s commitment to nuclear safety hailed by the IAEA: Regulation & Safety

September 15, 2022

A 13-day International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission to Argentina concluded that the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (RNA) “demonstrates a long-standing commitment to strengthening and promoting nuclear safety “, and also recommended areas for improvement.

The Atucha plant site (Image: Nucleoelectrica Argentina)

Argentina has three operating nuclear power plants – Atucha I and Atucha II and Embalse. Together, they produce up to 10% of the country’s electricity. A prototype of a small modular reactor, the CAREM 25, is also under construction. It also has research reactors and fuel cycle facilities.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team consisted of 19 experts from Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Netherlands, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia , Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States. There were also four IAEA staff members and two observers.

IRRS missions aim to enhance the effectiveness of a country’s nuclear and radiation safety regulatory infrastructure. This mission also included the regulatory implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to meetings and document review, the missions visited the Embalse plant, a fuel cycle facility, a research reactor, laboratories, a radiotherapy facility and a radioactive waste management facility on the Atucha site.

Areas of good performance, the IRRS team said, included the RNA’s ability to make its regulatory decisions based on radiation safety measurements and assessments carried out in its own laboratories, and acknowledged “the excellent preparatory work carried out by Argentina, including the identification of a number of conclusions from its self-assessment which were subsequently confirmed by the IRRS mission”.

The mission “recognized that the RNA has successfully implemented a comprehensive program of education and training in radiation protection and nuclear safety for more than 40 years for countries in the region”.

The main challenge identified for ARN “is to revise or develop several regulations and regulatory guides, which can be a lengthy process”.

Other recommendations include the creation of a trust fund for decommissioning activities, management of radioactive waste and spent fuel; establishing a review and revision process for standards and guides to keep them up to date; continued strengthening of the formalization of the national nuclear and radiological emergency response plan.

Javier Zarzuela, Technical Director of the Spanish Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) and Head of the IRRS Team, said: “The review allowed the team to develop a broad understanding of the governmental, legal and regulatory framework, resulting in recommendations and suggestions that should benefit nuclear and radiation safety in Argentina. By inviting this comprehensive international peer review, Argentina demonstrates openness, transparency and commitment to continuous improvement.

Agustín Arbor González, Chairman of the Board of ARN, said: “Argentina has a long-standing commitment to nuclear safety. Having carried out a self-assessment prior to this mission, we are satisfied that overall our regulatory system, which is mainly based on performance criteria, complies with IAEA safety standards. Some topics require additional work and we are committed to making improvements.

The mission’s final report will be submitted to the government in about three months.

Research and writing by World Nuclear News

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