STUK to launch reform of nuclear safety regulations and guidelines
Under the Nuclear Energy Act, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority is responsible for issuing general safety regulations and detailed safety requirements concerning the use of nuclear energy. These can be found in the regulations and guidelines published by STUK, known as the YVL Guides. The nuclear safety provisions lay out the requirements for nuclear and radiation safety, security arrangements and safeguards regarding nuclear facilities and other uses of nuclear energy. The provisions encompass the entire life cycle of nuclear facilities (planning, construction, commissioning, operation, decommissioning and final disposal of nuclear waste). They comprise five regulations and 45 YVL Guides.
On 28 October 2020, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority decided to initiate reform focused on the content and structure of safety provisions for the use of nuclear energy. The reform seeks to effect changes in the supervision of nuclear safety and related operating culture. No changes will be made to the level of safety presently required of nuclear facilities and other uses of nuclear energy.
The new provisions will emphasize the operators’ responsibility for safety. Recommendatory guidelines and binding requirements will be clearly distinguished from one another. The new, technology-neutral safety requirements will specify the target outcomes instead of dictating the acceptable solutions. Target-oriented requirements will provide the license holders with an opportunity to seek the solutions best suited for meeting the demands. Technology neutrality, in turn, enables a more flexible authorization of new technologies, such as small modular reactors (SMR), than is possible under the provisions presently in force.
“The present provisions specify the acceptable solutions for nuclear power plants in too great a detail, thereby, limit the possible solutions of both STUK and the license holders. Target-oriented provisions would offer licence holders more leeway for planning and creating the most appropriate solutions in terms of safety before submitting them to STUK for approval,” says Minna Tuomainen, Principal Advisor in the field of nuclear reactor regulation.
The reform will also enable STUK to allocate its supervisory resources on the basis of the risk level. Responsible operations will also be taken into account in the allocation and amount of supervision.
A reform of the Nuclear Energy Act is also needed
In August, a working group appointed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment released its assessment. According to the assessment, comprehensive reform of the Nuclear Energy Act is necessary due to major changes in the operating environment of nuclear energy use since the legislation’s entry into force in 1988. STUK was also in the working group.
Since the Nuclear Energy Act and the regulations and guidelines issued under it are so closely interconnected, it would be advantageous to amend them at the same time. In connection with the upcoming reform, the regulations and guidelines will also be analyzed to determine whether, due to constitutional considerations, any requirements specified in them should be provided for in legislation or a decree. Thus, a comprehensive examination of all parts would therefore ensure the best outcome in terms of preparations and the end result.
“Discussions with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment concerning the schedule and coordination of the reforms are an important part of the regulatory reform,” says Tuomainen.
The schedule for STUK’s regulatory reform will be specified in 2021 when a more detailed implementation plan will be drawn up.
Nuclear safety regulations
- Nuclear safety regulations include the general safety provisions issued by STUK under section 7 q of the Nuclear Energy Act, as well as the detailed safety requirements issued under section 7 r, known as the YVL Guides, which STUK is responsible for in accordance with section 55.
- The regulations are applied throughout the life cycle of nuclear facilities, from planning to decommissioning and other uses of nuclear energy (incl. the transportation of nuclear material).
- Safety requirements apply to the nuclear facility, site of the facility, organization operating the facility and various operations (such as security and emergency arrangements, nuclear waste management, safeguards of nuclear materials or radiation control in the environment).
- STUK oversees adherence to the regulations (section 55).
Minna Tuomainen, Principal Advisor, tel. +358 9 759 88 329, email@example.com
Kirsi Alm-Lytz, Director, tel. +358 9 759 88 663, firstname.lastname@example.org
Media Services, tel. +358 10 850 4761