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General information

After a licence is granted, nuclear power plants in Germany are subject to ongoing state supervision in line with the Atomic Energy Act (AtG) and related ordinances for their entire service life, from construction to decommissioning.

The federal states (Länder) are responsible for supervision of nuclear power plants and monitoring their safety and security. These duties are carried out by the individual state authority appointed as nuclear safety regulator, which in most states is the environment ministry. The supervisory authorities generally decide whether and which supervisory measures are to be taken (substantive competence).

Just as in the licencing procedure, the states are assisted by independent experts, but decisions on supervisory measures are taken by the supervisory authority. As with licensing, the primary objective of regulatory supervision of nuclear installations is to protect the general public and plant workers against the risks associated with the operation of nuclear installations.

The supervisory authority of each state closely monitors:

  • compliance with the instructions, obligations and ancillary provisions imposed by licensing notices,
  • compliance with the requirements of the Atomic Energy Act, nuclear licensing ordinances and other nuclear safety standards and guidelines,
  • and compliance with any supervisory orders.

The supervisory authority also investigates whether additional measures are required to protect life, health or material goods.  

In order to ensure safety, the supervisory authority monitors the following, with the assistance of its authorised experts and other authorities:

  • compliance with the operating rules,
  • regular in-service inspections of safety components and systems,
  • evaluation of reportable events,
  • implementation of modifications to the plant or its operation,
  • radiation protection monitoring of plant personnel,
  • radiation protection monitoring in the vicinity of the plant, including the operation of an independent remote monitoring system for nuclear power plants,
  • compliance with approved plant-specific limits for radioactive discharge,
  • precautions taken to safeguard against disruptive actions or other interference by third parties,
  • reliability, technical qualification and continuing technical training of responsible individuals and maintaining knowledge in other plant employees,
  • and quality assurance measures.

As set out in the Atomic Energy Act, the authorised experts appointed by the supervisory authority can access the plant at all times and are permitted to perform any necessary examinations and request information relevant to the task at hand. However, the supervisory authority is not bound by the results of such investigations

Plant operators are required to submit operating reports to the supervisory authorities regularly based on the applicable licencing terms. Such reports include information about operating history, details of maintenance work and inspections and information about radiation protection and radioactive waste. Safety-related events must be reported to the authorities according to the provisions specified in the Nuclear Safety Officer and Reporting Ordinance (AtSMV). Reportable events and their evaluation are described in Annex 1 of the ordinance. Plant operators also provide regular reports on specific issues. 

In addition to continuous regulatory supervision, periodic safety reviews and submission of their results are performed as required under Section19a of the Atomic Energy Act

On average, the supervisory authority performs on-site supervisory activities once a week during normal operation. Given the complexity of the plants, several supervisory authority officers are generally responsible for monitoring a plant. The authorised experts are on site even more frequently. On-site supervision is stepped up during plant overhauls involving exchange of fuel elements and after reportable events.

The emission of radioactive substances is automatically and continuously monitored by the independent remote monitoring system for nuclear power plants, both in the plant itself and in its vicinity. The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) also has a closely knit surveillance network to measure environmental radioactivity levels in Germany. 

According to Section 24 of the Atomic Energy Act in conjunction with Articles 87c and 85 of the Basic Law, the states perform their supervisory duties on behalf of the Federation. The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) is tasked with ensuring that the law and safety-related principles and requirements are applied and enforced uniformly. The Federation can issue binding instructions to states with regard to issues of substance, law and procedure. Should the Federation exercise its right to issue instructions, it asserts its substantive competence. 

This does not apply to what is known as the competence to exercise duties, however, which remains with the relevant state authority and is irrevocable. Competence to exercise duties means that each state is able to legally act vis-à-vis third parties and nuclear power plant operators in particular. Within the scope of the supervisory process, the Federation is prohibited from taking and enforcing any decisions with regard to operators.

In practice, the Federation rarely exercises its right to issue instructions to the German states. In most supervisory processes involving the Federation, the Federation and states work together to reach a mutual agreement on whether and which measures need to be taken. 

Following the 2011 Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) Follow-Up Mission conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the competent nuclear licencing and supervisory authorities of the states agreed to produce a joint supervisory handbook. This document details the cooperation between the Federation and the states in licenced and operating nuclear power plants and in procedures relating to nuclear energy law.

  • Supervisory handbook (in German)

    Nukleare Sicherheit

    Download 10 MB
Last updated: 19.07.2022

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