An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team said Sweden had made significant improvements in its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety, but noted potential new challenges ahead linked to lower electricity prices and future decommissioning of reactors.
At the end of a nine-day follow-up mission to assess the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety, which ended on 3 May, the team found that recommendations and suggestions from the 2012 mission had been considered systematically by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM). "Significant progress has been made in most areas - 20 out of 22 recommendations and all 17 suggestions identified in 2012 were closed," said team leader Georg Schwarz, deputy director general of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate. The nine-member team comprised experts from the nuclear regulatory bodies of Finland, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Switzerland, the UK and the USA, as well as three IAEA experts.
The mission said, "The main areas of progress included improvements in SSM's inspection activities and in the preparedness for radiological emergencies, while maintaining sufficient knowledge and skills related to nuclear and radiation safety remained a challenge."
In its preliminary findings, the IRRS team identified good practices.The Swedish government and SSM have undertaken a comprehensive project to address the findings of the previous mission and to meet European Union (EU) nuclear safety directives and EU Basic Safety Standards. The team also praised SSM for developing a well-defined set of criteria to assess the risks involved in the multiple uses of radiation sources.
However, the team also suggestedimprovements. It said the SSM should complete a comprehensive assessment of its resource needs and should consider making regulatory guidance documents more accessible. It also suggested the government should consider expanding the scope of the national nuclear emergency response plan to include radiological emergencies based on a thorough hazard assessment.
The team noted SSM faces possible new challenges since its 2012 review. It said these were mainly due to lower electricity prices and a change in national energy policy which could result in the earlier than planned closure of power reactors. The team said SSM needs to prepare for possible large-scale decommissioning and "ensure that economic pressure on the utility industry does not affect nuclear safety negatively".
SSM said it will draw up "an action plan for its development work going forward" based on the recommendations from the IRRS team. The IAEA team will submit its final mission report to the Swedish government in about two months.
Sweden has 10 operating power reactors at its Forsmark, Oskarshamn and Ringhals NPPs. These units about one-third total electricity. Three reactors are currently being decommissioned. Westinghouse operates at fuel fabrication plant at Västerås. Sweden also has an interim used fuel storage facility as well as a centre for waste treatment, storage and material investigation.