An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team said on 21 January that Japan had strengthened inspections as part of extensive efforts in recent years to improve its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety. Following an eight-day review, the experts noted that significant progress had been made since a previous IAEA mission in 2016 and also identified some areas for further improvement, recommending measures on occupational radiation protection and transport safety.
The 18-member IRRS team comprised senior regulatory experts from Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Pakistan, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and six IAEA staff members. One observer from Canada also participated in the mission.
The scope of the mission covered the same areas that were reviewed in 2016, including the responsibilities and functions of the government and the regulatory body, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), set up after the Fukushima disaster. In addition, the team was this time requested by Japan to review safety related to the transportation of radioactive material.
The experts said Japan had implemented many of the recommendations and suggestions from 2016. The NRA’s achievements include:
- The establishment of an inspection programme with increased powers to access nuclear facilities, including the right to carry out unannounced inspections at any time.
- The introduction of a systematic process to regularly review and update safety regulations and guidance documents.
The IRRS team said there were areas requiring further work and recommended that the NRA:
- Fully implements its new integrated management system.
- Further strengthens its regulatory oversight of radiation protection for workers.
Regarding transport safety, the IRRS team noted that Japan generally implements regulations in line with IAEA standards but recommended some specific improvements, including:
- Periodic exercises to test emergency response arrangements for the transportation of radioactive material.
- Extension of inspection programmes to cover all types of packages used to transport such material.
Greg Rzentkowski, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, commended Japan for its strong commitment to maintaining high nuclear safety standards. “The NRA has enhanced its regulatory programmes which should now be fully implemented in a manner commensurate with the assessed risks posed by regulated facilities and activities to ensure adequate protection of the public and the environment,” he said, recalling that operators must always demonstrate the safety of their facilities.