IAEA mission finds commitment to safety in Turkey

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team has concluded a 12-day mission to review the national legal and regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety regarding safe operation of its nuclear and radiation facilities and activities. The team said Turkey’s nuclear and radiation regulator showed commitment to continuous improvement of safety and the protection of people and the environment. The mission also noted areas where further enhancements can be made to the national nuclear and radiation safety regulatory infrastructure, as the country constructs its first NPP.

Turkey currently has two research reactors and a waste management facility, and uses radiation sources in medicine and industry. Four pressurized water reactors are under construction for the new Akkuyu NPP, situated in Mersin. When completed, the plant will have a gross electrical capacity of 4800 MWe, which will diversify Turkey’s energy mix and decrease reliance on energy imports.

“The self-assessment and preliminary action plan provided by Turkey to the IAEA team in advance of the mission gave the reference material needed for a comprehensive review of the county’s regulatory infrastructure across all nuclear and radiation facilities,” said IAEA Director of the Division of Nuclear Installation Safety Anna Hajduk Bradford.

The mission was conducted at the request of Türkiye and hosted by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NDK), to review the legal and regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety.

The IRRS team, comprising 16 senior regulatory experts from 15 Member States and 3 IAEA staff members, observed regulatory activities and conducted a series of interviews and discussions with management and staff of NDK. The team visited the Akkuyu NPP, the TRIGA Mark-II research reactor and the TENMAK waste management facility in Istanbul, and a cyclotron facility and a radiotherapy facility in Ankara.

Meetings were held with the Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, the Deputy Minister of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change, and staff of the Ministry of Health. The team also held discussions with the management of Akkuyu Nuclear, the license holder of Akkuyu NPP, and representatives of Nuclear Technical Support (NUTED), the technical support organization of NDK.

“All parties communicated on their regulatory, technical and policy issues in a very open and transparent manner,” said Georg Schwarz, Team Leader and Former Deputy Director General of Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate ENSI. “We found that some of the identified areas for improvement are already contained in NDK’s action plan for improving the national regulatory infrastructure as a result of their self-assessment,” said Schwarz.

In adding nuclear power to its energy mix, a major challenge for Turkey is to oversee the construction and to regulate the safe commissioning and operation of its NPP. The Government has addressed this by:

  • Revising the legal framework to stipulate the fundamental principles and rules to be applied for the protection of the workers, the public and the environment.
  • Establishing NDK in 2019 as the independent regulatory body for oversight of nuclear and radiation safety of facilities and activities, by Presidential Decree.
  • Establishing the technical support organization NUTED, to support NDK in regulatory functions including review, assessment and inspection.

The team also noted the Ministry of National Education’s new nuclear education scholarship program at foreign universities, aimed at achieving a qualified nuclear workforce: 132 scholarship students are studying abroad on behalf of NDK as of 2022.

In their report, the team said it was important for NDK to further enhance national regulations for the effective oversight of facilities and activities, in accordance with the IAEA safety standards. They also made recommendations for improving regulatory arrangements, including:

  • To update the regulatory framework for emergency preparedness and response with clear roles and responsibilities during offsite and onsite emergencies at the NPP.
  • To ensure regulatory competence is maintained when qualified staff leave the organization.
  • To develop an inspection program for commissioning and operation of NPPs, including guidance for conducting regulatory inspections.
  • To establish a formal cooperation and coordination arrangement between NDK and the Ministry of Health for regulatory oversight of medical facilities and activities.

Zafer Demircan, President of NDK, said, “We are pleased that our efforts to enhance our nuclear framework is reflected in the report and we will continue to focus on further aligning our national program to international regulatory standards across all facilities and activities and Turkey’s first NPP.”

The final mission report will be provided to the Government in three months. As with all IRRS missions, the country has been advised to invite an IAEA IRRS follow-up mission within two to four years.

Image: The Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey (courtesy of Akkuyu Nuclear)

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