Armenian regulator must address staff deficit, says IAEA

17 June 2019

Armenia has made progress in strengthening its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety but still faces challenges, including a shortage of qualified and experienced staff at its regulatory body, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said today on completion of an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) follow-up mission.

The Armenian nuclear power plant in Metsamor (Image: ANPP)

The mission, which followed an initial IRRS mission in 2015, was conducted at the request of the government of Armenia and hosted by the Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ANRA).

The Armenian nuclear power plant in Metsamor provides 40% of the country's electricity. Unit 1 was permanently shut down in 1989, while the operating licence for unit 2 has been extended until 2021 subject to yearly safety demonstrations, with preparations under way for requesting an additional extension until 2026. Armenia also has a dry used fuel storage facility, a radioactive waste storage facility, and uses radioactive sources in medicine, industry and research.

IRRS team leader Hans Wanner, who is director general of the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate, said ANRA faces a "critical situation" related to human resources. ANRA and its technical and support organisation, the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Centre (NRSC), are not "financially competitive" in an industry comparison.

Ashot Martirosyan, ANRA chairman, said that measures were already under way to resolve the staffing issue.

The team found that, since 2015, Armenia has taken key steps forward by adopting a strategy for used fuel and radioactive waste management, and by intensifying inspections related to emergency preparedness and response. Armenia is still addressing some other recommendations and suggestions from the 2015 mission, "in part because the country is undertaking a comprehensive legislative review process, including on a new Atomic Law", the IAEA said.

ANRA "faces many challenges" in regulating nuclear safety, the IAEA said, including implementation of findings related to a European Union initiative on conducting nuclear power plant stress tests. The initiative, which Armenia has joined, stems from lessons learned from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan.

The team has recommended that ANRA upgrades its management system in line with IAEA safety standards.
The 12-member IRRS team comprised senior regulatory experts from Argentina, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Romania, Switzerland, Ukraine and the USA, as well as three IAEA staff members.

The final mission report will be provided to the government in about three months.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News