The Director General of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) headed the group of international nuclear experts who reviewed the Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ANRA) on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). No fewer than 62 “recommendations” on improving supervisory practice were issued.
“The Armenian regulatory authority (ANRA) is confronted with some major challenges,” ENSI’s Director General Hans Wanner comments. “It is our duty to support the authority in its efforts to implement international safety standards in Armenia’s Mezamor nuclear power plant.” Two of the key recommendations issued by the mission of the IAEA’s Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) were also addressed to Armenia’s government: the principal cause of concern for the experts is the inadequacy of the available resources – not only for the safe operation of Armenia’s single nuclear power plant, but also for comprehensive monitoring of the plant by the Armenian regulatory authority.
- The government should establish and implement a policy for safety that demonstrates its long-term commitment to safety.
- The government should provide ANRA with adequate human and financial resources, and authorize it to structure its organization and manage its resources.
Although the operating licence expires in September 2016, the regulatory authority has not yet received an application for an extension from the licensee. Together with the application, the operating company must submit comprehensive documentation to the regulatory authority regarding the condition of the facility and the backfits required for continued operation of the nuclear power plant. The review of these documents by the regulatory authority is a very complex process that – according to experience – requires more than a year.
Regulatory authority could come under pressure
“It is becoming apparent that the licensing process cannot be completed on time,” Hans Wanner explained during the media conference in Yerevan, the Armenian capital, at the conclusion of the IRRS mission. “We therefore fear that the regulatory authority will come under political pressure if it transpires that the plant has to be taken out of service due to the lack of a valid licence.”
The IRRS mission’s report will be finalised in the coming weeks at the IAEA in Vienna, and will then be published by the Armenian authorities.
About three years after a mission, what is known as a follow-up mission takes place; this examines the implementation of the opportunities for improvement that were recommended during the mission as such. The international experts are recruited from different countries, and attention is paid to ensure that all cultures (regions of the globe) are represented as far as is possible.
Review of the nuclear power plants is not part of the mission’s remit. The IAEA’s OSART (Operational Safety Review Team) missions are responsible for this.