French safety institute to be merged with regulator and CEA

14 February 2023

The French government has announced plans to transfer the competences of the Institute for Radiation Protection & Nuclear Safety (IRSN - Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire) to other institutions. The aim is to strengthen synergies at a time when France is seeking to expand its nuclear programme.

The Minister of Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, has asked IRSN, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN - l'Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire) and the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA - Commissariat à l'énergie Atomique et aux énergies Alternatives) to submit proposals by the end of February. These must include “first measures and a working method” to implement the new guidelines. The requests were made to ASN Bernard Doroszczuk, IRSN Director General Jean-Christophe Niel, and CEA General Administrator François Jacq.

The Government said the Nuclear Policy Council had “reviewed all the issues upstream and downstream of nuclear power and highlighted the importance of strengthening the independence and resources of the Nuclear Safety Authority”. It was decided that the technical skills of IRSN should be combined with those of ASN, “being careful to take account of synergies” with CEA and the Nuclear Safety & Radiation Protection Delegate for Defence-related Activities & Installations (DSND).

This development will:

  • strengthen the independence of nuclear safety control, within a single independent safety unit, in order to guarantee a high level of safety requirements;
  • consolidate, strengthen skills and streamline ASN's technical review and decision-making processes to respond to the growing volume of activities linked to the relaunch of the nuclear sector desired by the Government;
  • increase synergies in terms of research and development in the nuclear field, thus contributing to the resilience and anticipation of the long-term challenges of the sector;
  • guarantee over time, within the new organisation, the excellence of the technical and scientific teams at national and international level.

The changes would preserve the working conditions and remuneration of the Institute's personnel and enable continued exercise of its missions, the Government said.

???IRSNwas set up in 2001.It is supervised jointly by the Minister of the Ecological transition, the Minister of Defence, and the Ministers of Energy transition, Research and Health. A decree in 2016 entrusted IRSN with missions of expertise and research in the following areas: nuclear safety; safety of transport of radioactive & fissile materials; protection of man and the environment against ionising radiation; protection and control of nuclear materials; and protection of nuclear facilities and transport of radioactive and fissile materials against malicious acts.

IRSN at the end of 2021 employed 1,725 people, including specialists, engineers, researchers, physicians, agricultural engineers, veterinary surgeons and technicians, as well as experts in nuclear safety, radiation protection and control of sensitive nuclear materials. It also supported 96 doctoral students and 21 post-doctoral students. Of its €272m budget in 2021, 39.1%? was spent on research and 52.6% on technical support and public service missions.

The government wants to strengthen the independence of nuclear safety control within a single, independent centre, increase synergies in nuclear research and development, and guarantee the excellence of the teams. The guidelines will be implemented while preserving the working conditions and remuneration of IRSN staff and maintaining the resources needed to carry out its missions.

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