An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team has said Sweden has a comprehensive regulatory infrastructure for nuclear and radiation safety and the protection of people and the environment. The team also identified areas for possible improvements, such as ensuring that the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM), the national regulatory authority for nuclear and radiation safety, has sufficient qualified staff to fulfil all statutory and regulatory functions.

The team undertook a 12-day mission to Sweden from 14-25 November at the request of the Government of Sweden and hosted by SSM. The first IRRS mission in Sweden took place in 2012 with a follow-up review in 2016.

The team, comprising 18 senior regulatory experts from 16 member states as well as three IAEA staff members, reviewed the regulatory oversight of facilities and activities and exposure situations. The team also accompanied SSM staff during their inspections and oversight activities at the operating Forsmark NPP, the Ågesta NPP under decommissioning, the Westinghouse nuclear fuel factory, the Gems pet cyclotron facility, the Cyclife laboratory and a hospital in Västerås.

Sweden has six nuclear reactors in operation in three plants, with a total installed capacity of 6885 MWe, contributing 30.8% of total electricity generation in Sweden.

“Sweden has a comprehensive regulatory infrastructure for nuclear and radiation safety covering the full range of facilities, activities, and exposure situations,” said the IRRS team leader Scott Morris, Regional Administrator for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “SSM is a competent, independent regulator whose staff are committed to deliver SSM’s statutory obligations effectively.”

The team also held meetings with representatives from the Ministry of Environment and with the management of Vattenfall, the licence holder for NPPs.

“Sweden is committed to ensuring the highest standards in its regulation of nuclear safety,” said Nina Cromnier, Director General of SSM. “The feedback from the IRRS experts provides valuable contributions to SSM’s ongoing work towards fulfilling our strategy goals consistent with this objective.”

The IRRS team identified good practices and performances conducted by SSM including:

  • Exposure data and typical doses for various medical procedures available to any interested party, including the public.
  • Proactive communication to enhance public awareness on safety matters.
  • Digitisation of the process for registration of radioactive sources.
  • Annual integrated safety assessments to identify safety issues and trends.

The IRRS team made several recommendations and suggestions to further reinforce continuous improvement of the Swedish regulatory system and the effectiveness of the regulatory functions in line with IAEA safety standards.

Recommendations and suggestions for Sweden included:

  • Establishment of a national strategy addressing competence needs, taking into account the possible expansion of nuclear power.
  • Improved coordination between SSM and other national authorities with responsibilities for safety.
  • Further development of expert services in the event of a nuclear or radiological emergency.

The mission will be followed by an IAEA Integrated Review Service for Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, Decommissioning and Remediation (ARTEMIS) mission scheduled for April 2023 which will assess radioactive waste and used fuel management, decommissioning and remediation programmes in the country. The final mission report will be provided to SSM in about three months. Sweden plans to make the report public.

Image: Sweden's Forsmark nuclear power plant (courtesy of Vattenfall)