Concluding a ten-day mission to China, a United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) expert team has found that the country’s nuclear and radiation safety frameworks are effective, but will require further development due to rapid nuclear energy growth.
“We found that significant progress has been made in developing the regulatory framework in the six years since the last review,” the Executive Vice-President and Chief Regulatory Operations Officer at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Ramzi Jammal, who is also the team leader of IAEA’s Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS), said in an IAEA news release today.
“China’s plan,” he added, “for unparalleled expansion of the use of nuclear power poses a challenge for the regulatory body, which will have to invest effort and resources to ensure that it has the capacity to effectively regulate nuclear and radiation safety.”
According to the atomic agency, IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national nuclear regulatory infrastructure, while recognizing the responsibility of each country to ensure nuclear safety. These assessments are based on IAEA safety standards and international best practices.
In the news release, the expert team recommended that China should continue its progress toward adopting the draft Nuclear Safety Act, which sets out fundamental safety principles.
The team emphasised that the Act should ensure the independence of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection’s National Nuclear Safety Administration as a regulatory body that is separated from other entities with responsibilities or interests that could unduly influence its decision-making.
The team also said that the national policy and strategy to manage radioactive waste should reflect the planned expansion of nuclear power.
According to the IAEA, China currently has 32 nuclear power reactors in operation, 22 more than in 2010. There are 24 nuclear power reactors under construction – the highest number globally – and the country aims to have about 90 reactors in operation or under construction by 2020. The country also has 19 research reactors, nearly 100 nuclear fuel recycling facilities and 120,000 radiation sources in service.
Furthermore, in the news release, the Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, Greg Rzentkowski, noted that China had demonstrated a strong commitment to invest and innovate in nuclear safety to meet infrastructure development challenges posed by its expanding nuclear power programme.
“The regulator needs to have adequate authority, competence, and financial and human resources to enable China – a global leader in nuclear power – to adopt the highest safety standards and to contribute to the global safety network, building on their national achievement,” he said.
“China should lead by example in an open and transparent manner,” he added.