What is an IRRS mission?

IRRS stands for Integrated Regulatory Review Service and is a service offered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to its member states for improving and further developing nuclear safety worldwide. Core elements of an IRRS mission are the self-assessment of the national legislative, regulatory and organizational framework with regards to nuclear safety of nuclear facilities by the Member State in the run-up to the mission and the subsequent review by an international team of experts in the sense of a peer review during the mission.

EU Member States have committed themselves, in accordance with Directive 2009/71/Euratom as amended by Directive 2014/87/Euratom, to carry out a self-assessment of the national legislative, regulatory and organisational framework for, inter alia, nuclear safety of nuclear installations at least every ten years and to invite a subsequent review by international experts. The Heads of Nuclear Regulatory Authorities of the EU Member States have agreed to use the IAEA service of the IRRS Mission as a tool to implement the above commitment.

The process of an IRRS mission

As a first step, a national self-assessment of the supervision system is to be carried out on the basis of the IAEA regulatory framework - the IAEA Safety Standards. Subsequently, the answers are to be evaluated and a National Action Plan for improving national supervision is to be developed. The Self-Assessment, the National Action Plan as well as background material (laws, regulations, nuclear rules, etc.) are to be compiled as so-called Advance Reference Material (ARM) and forwarded to the international team of experts before the mission is carried out. The international team of experts consists of employees of nuclear authorities in other countries and of the IAEA, who are familiar with the task and its performance or who have been trained by the IAEA as reviewers.

The mission itself lasts two weeks. During the mission, the team of experts conducts interviews with employees of the supervisory authorities, the expert organisations and the operators. The supervisory activities in individual nuclear facilities are also comprehended on site. As a result of the IRRS mission, the IAEA expert team prepares a report. It contains recommendations and suggestions in which areas there is room for improvement in the view of the international team of experts, but also in which areas the national nuclear supervisory authorities are above the international benchmark (good practice).

After the initial mission, the National Action Plan is revised in such a way that the recommendations and suggestions of the initial mission are evaluated and corresponding implementation measures are defined. The follow-up mission reviews and evaluates the implementation of the recommendations and suggestions made in the meantime. The follow-up mission takes place at intervals of two to four years after the mission. Usually, most members of the expert team have already participated in the original mission.

The whole IRRS process in a simplified overview.. for further information see image caption

The whole IRRS process in a simplified overview, starting with self-assessment (according to IAEA standards, IRRS guidelines, IRRS questionnaire), followed by the development of a National Action Plan, IRRS mission (gives recommendations, suggestions and good practices), adaptation of the action plan, progress report and finally the IRRS follow- up mission. The implementation of recommendations, suggestions and actions continuously intervenes in each of these points.

Figure: An overview of the entire IRRS process.

IRRS missions in Germany

In Germany, an IRRS mission was carried out for the first time in 2008 and a follow-up mission in 2011 on a voluntary basis.

A second mission took place in 2019 in fulfilment of the EU legal obligation under Directive 2009/71/Euratom as amended by Directive 2014/87/Euratom. The subsequent follow-up mission was carried out in Bonn from 9 to 16 October 2023. This concluded the second cycle of the peer review process, which is mandatory within the EU every ten years.

Last updated: 20.02.2024

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