The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM – Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten) said that new, modern regulations for nuclear facilities in Sweden would enter into force on 1 March.  

SSM Director General Nina Cromnier has decided on new regulations for the design, valuation and reporting of radiation safety as well as the operation of nuclear power reactors. In addition, decisions have been made on new regulations on the disposal of nuclear waste. The regulations form part of the agency's new regulatory structure for nuclear activities.

The work of developing new regulations for radiation safety at nuclear facilities has been ongoing since 2013 and means that Sweden has a regulatory framework adapted to international developments in accordance with the government assignment given to the authority in 2015.

Radiation safety at Swedish nuclear power reactors has gradually improved since they were built and put into operation, SSM said, and important improvement measures have been added following a decision by the government or SSM. “The existing Swedish nuclear power reactors, as well as most reactors in other countries, are now entering a new phase with continued operation after the time for which they were originally planned. This places demands on licensees to ensure that radiation safety is maintained and gradually continues to develop in the future.”

The new regulations mean a more comprehensive, clearer and comprehensive regulation. “It is a modern regulatory framework with support from international standards which, among other things, aims to develop the conditions for dealing with radiological emergencies and antagonistic threats,” said Aino Obenius Mowitz, investigator and project manager at SSM’s unit for national standardisation. “The regulations also aim to develop knowledge about the level of radiation safety through evaluations, analyses and review of the programmes that are applied for maintenance with regard to gained experience and how the facilities are affected by operation and age.” 

Regulations for nuclear power reactors relate to all aspects of protecting workers, the general public and the environment from the harmful effects of ionising radiation, including protecting against theft of radiation sources, nuclear material and other radioactive substances. They set requirements for the application of basic design, valuation and accounting principles that are common to the radiation safety aspects. In addition, requirements are included to ensure that improvements in individual aspects of radiation safety do not lead to deterioration of other measures in the event of changes in operations. The new regulations on the disposal of nuclear waste also entail a clearer regulation of the licensees' responsibility for handling the nuclear waste in different stages of the waste chain up to its placement in a final repository.

“A basic and internationally accepted principle in nuclear activities is that radiation safety must not only be maintained but also gradually developed,” Mowitz noted. “It is about preventive and management measures to protect workers, the general public and the environment from the harmful effects of ionising radiation during all stages of the facilities 'lifetime, as well as when the licensees' conditions for protection may be challenged by external and other circumstances.”  

According to government instructions, the new regulations have been developed for  light water reactors. This means that supplementary rules for any new nuclear power reactors that are of a different type need to be developed if this should become relevant. In the meantime, SSM monitors, among other things, the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) extensive work to evaluate the applicability of international standards for new types and sizes of nuclear power reactors.

The new regulations will replace older provisions and regulations on 1 March, with an extended period of interpretation and implementation for a selection of the new requirements of up to five years in order to provide conditions for the relevant licensees to apply the new and adapted measures resulting from the new regulations. In addition, work is underway to review additional regulations for other types of nuclear facilities and on various specific issues. In total, the work comprises 20 regulations. With planned steps for consultations, the work will continue for a number of years before the entire collection of statutes for nuclear and certain other activities is completed.