An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission said Bangladesh is committed to continuous improvement of nuclear and radiation safety. The mission also noted areas where improvements could be made to enhance the national nuclear and radiation safety regulatory infrastructure, as the country constructs its first nuclear power plant (NPP).

The team concluded a 13-day mission to Bangladesh on 8 December, the first IRRS mission to the country. It was conducted at the request of the Bangladesh government and hosted by the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory Authority (BAERA) in the capital Dhaka, to assess Bangladesh’s regulatory framework for safety against IAEA safety standards.

The team, comprising 15 senior regulatory experts from Canada, Egypt, France, India, Japan, Malta, Pakistan, South Africa, the UK and USA, as well as six IAEA staff members, reviewed the responsibilities and functions of the government and the management and activities of the regulatory body including authorisation, review and assessment, inspection and enforcement, development of regulations and guides, and emergency preparedness and response.

“The self-assessment and preliminary action plan provided by Bangladesh to the IAEA team in advance of the mission gave us the reference material needed for a comprehensive review of the country’s regulatory infrastructure, across all nuclear and radiation facilities,” said IAEA Director of the Division of Nuclear Installation Safety Anna Hajduk Bradford. 

The mission included interviews and discussions with representatives from BAERA and the Ministry of Sciences and Technology. The team visited the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission’s TRIGA Research Reactor, the central radioactive waste processing and storage facility at BAERA, the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Science, the Square Hospital of radiotherapy and Bangladesh Industrial X-Ray, as well as the construction site of the country’s first nuclear power plant, Rooppur NPP in Pabna, around 200 km west of Dhaka. When completed, Rooppur NPP will contribute a total of 2400 MWe to Bangladesh’s energy grid. 

“As a country with ambitions for a significant nuclear power programme, it is important that the government of Bangladesh and BAERA work together to deliver the improvements required,” said Mark Foy, CEO and Chief Nuclear Inspector at the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation and team leader of the mission. “We had the full support and cooperation of BAERA and all other parties in Bangladesh, and the reviews of regulatory, technical and policy issues were conducted in a constructive and open manner.”

The IRRS team identified a number of areas of good performance of BAERA. These include:

  • Seeking technical advice from expert committees to inform regulatory decision making associated with the NPP.
  • Efficient planning and use of resources to conduct multiple inspections of medical facilities during regional visits.
  • Establishing the BAERA Code of Ethics, which provides a clear commitment to an ethical approach in its regulatory activities.

The IRRS team offered several recommendations to further enhance the regulatory framework for the effective oversight of facilities and activities. These include:

  • Establishing the national policy and strategy for safety in accordance with the IAEA fundamental safety objective and principles.
  • Updating the legal framework for nuclear and radiation safety by commencing revision of the Nuclear Safety and Radiation Control (NSRC) Rules, which define the fundamental principles and rules for the protection of workers, the public and the environment.
  • Developing BAERA’s human resources plan to ensure that a sufficient number of trained, qualified, competent and certified staff are available to perform all its functions effectively.

“We are pleased to find that our self-assessment effectively pre-empted some of the findings of the mission, which we had incorporated into our action plan,” said Chairman of BAERA Muzammel Haque. “Now we will focus on further enhancing BAERA’s regulatory effectiveness by including the additional IRRS report findings to strengthen our regulatory infrastructure in line with international standards.”

Image: Aerial view of Rooppur nuclear power plant, Bangaldesh (courtesy of IAEA)