Improvements reported in Bulgaria’s regulatory system

20 April 2016

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) peer review mission has said Bulgaria's nuclear safety regulatory system has improved significantly in recent years, although the high staff turnover remains a concern.

During the seven-day visit, the nine-member team, led by Marta Ziakova of the Slovak Nuclear Regulatory Authority, assessed the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety in Bulgaria and reviewed developments since a previous mission in 2013. The team included experts from the nuclear regulatory bodies of Germany, Greece, Norway, Pakistan, Slovakia and Slovenia as well as three IAEA experts.

Ziakova said the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (BNRA) followed up on the earlier mission with a comprehensive action plan that led to significant progress in all areas. The review was carried out at the invitation of the Bulgarian government. Improvements included a clearer division of responsibilities between BNRA and the Ministry of Health. This improved division of responsibilities, as well as strengthening coordination and cooperation between BNRA and the Ministry of Health, "reduced the risk of duplication or gaps in regulatory work", the team said. BNRA had also strengthened its inspection process, upgraded its management system and substantially improved emergency planning arrangements by establishing systematic emergency training among other things.

However, the team suggested BNRA should continue negotiations with relevant authorities "for sufficient financial resources that would allow for competitive salaries". It also suggested the Health Ministry should consider developing a systematic programme to ensure that all areas it regulates are covered by inspections within a given period. The IRRS team will present its final mission report to the Bulgarian government in about three months.

BNRA was established under the Safe Uses of Nuclear Energy Act 2002 and took over the functions of its predecessor, the Committee on the Safe Use of Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes, originally set up under a 1985 Act. It is responsible for both regulation of nuclear installations in relation to safety and radiation protection, and also the management of radioactive wastes. The Health Ministry is also involved with radiation protection, and determines relevant standards.

Bulgaria has six nuclear power reactors at its Kozloduy site, four of which are being decommissioned with two still in operation. Bulgaria also has used fuel storage sites and radioactive waste facilities, as well as numerous users of radioactive sources in the industrial, research and medical fields.

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