An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) follow-up team has concluded a mission to Germany at the request of the German Federal Government. The team said Germany had implemented all six recommendations and all but two of 25 suggestions made during a previous IRRS mission in 2019.

The seven-day mission reviewed Germany’s governmental, legal and regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety against IAEA safety standards and the recommendations and suggestions from the 2019 IRRS mission. Both missions covered all of Germany’s facilities and activities, with the exception of transport, radiation sources, and public and medical exposure.

Germany decided in 2011 to phase out its nuclear power programme and in April shut down the last three of the 36 reactors it has operated since 1961. Currently 28 reactors are undergoing decommissioning, five are awaiting a licence for decommissioning, and three have been fully dismantled. The focus of the German nuclear power programme is shifting to the safe decommissioning of NPPs, safe operation of the different waste storage facilities and the site selection for a deep geological disposal facility. Germany operates six research reactors for research and medical isotope production.

The 10-member team comprised seven senior regulatory experts from six IAEA member states and three IAEA staff members. They met with a large number of state-level organisation as well as representatives of the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety & Consumer Protection (BMUV), the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE), and the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS).

The team concluded that Germany has been responsive to the recommendations and suggestions made in 2019 and continues to place appropriate focus on implementing a framework that provides effective nuclear and radiation safety for workers, the public and the environment within the areas covered by IRRS mission.

“The team greatly appreciates the hard work of the regulatory authorities of Germany to further strengthen the regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety,” said Daniel Dorman, Team Leader & Executive Director for Operations at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “Germany’s accomplishments and ongoing further efforts will serve Germany well in its effective regulatory oversight of decommissioning and radioactive waste management.”

The IRRS team noted that Germany has shown a strong commitment to nuclear and radiation safety in the areas covered by the mission. Progress made since 2019 includes:

  • Establishing a national strategy for competence building and the development of future talent for nuclear safety.
  • Strengthening emergency preparedness and response with the adoption of a federal general emergency response plan and full functioning of the new Federal Radiological Situation Centre.
  • Enhancing conformity of the regulatory framework with the IAEA safety standards.

Recommendations related to items of direct relevance to safety as referenced in IAEA Safety Requirements. These were suggestions relate to items that, while not essential to ensure compatibility with IAEA Safety Requirements, may enhance the effectiveness of the national nuclear and radiation safety regime. Germany was encouraged to continue its efforts to:

  • Complete the integrated management system in some Länder (German federal states) authorities.
  • Revise the safety requirements and guidance documents for the development, operation and closure of disposal facilities for radioactive waste.

“I am convinced that international exchange between supervisory authorities is crucial for enhancing nuclear safety around the world,” said Gerrit Niehaus, Director General on Nuclear Safety and Radiological Protection at BMUV. “That is why Germany, irrespective of its nuclear phase-out, will continue to play an active role in the development and improvement of nuclear safety at the international level.”

The IAEA will provide the final mission report to the Government in about three months. The Government plans to make the report public.

Image: The German Ministry for the Environment building in Berlin, Germany