IRRS Mission 2015

Ireland hosted an ‘Integrated Regulatory Review Service’ (IRRS) mission in 2015. This page provides some background information and overview of the mission.

Logo of the integrated regulatory review mission


Background information

Under binding legal requirements in both the Euratom Nuclear Safety and Radioactive Waste directives, the national radiation safety regulatory framework, including the regulatory bodies, is the subject of a periodic international peer review. In practice, these peer reviews are organised by the International atomic Energy agency (IAEA) through an agreement with the european Commission (EC). They comprise a detailed examination of national provisions against the IAEA’s Safety Standards.

The IAEA’s peer review process is called an ‘Integrated Regulatory Review Service’ (IRRS). It was established to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of national regulatory infrastructure for nuclear safety, radiation safety, radioactive waste and transport safety, and the security of radioactive sources, while recognising the ultimate responsibility of each member state to ensure safety in these areas.

Ireland applied for its peer review mission on the 28 September, 2010, and, in an exchange of letters between the IAEA and Government, 2015 was agreed as the year for the mission, with a follow-up mission foreseen for 2018. The timing is in line with the requirements of both the Nuclear Safety Directive and the Radioactive Waste Directive.

In September 2015 an IRRS review team, comprising of radiation protection and regulatory experts from around the world, completed the review of Ireland's national radiation safety provisions.

IRRS Process 

The review process draws upon the wide-ranging international experience and expertise of the IRRS review team members. Peer exchange on technical and policy issues are designed to provide insight into the efficiency and effectiveness of the legal and governmental framework and regulatory infrastructure for safety. Through this process, opportunities for improvement are explored and potential improvement strategies identified. IRRS missions provide an opportunity for sharing regulatory experiences, harmonising regulatory approaches among states and creating mutual learning opportunities among regulators. IRRS discussions focus on issues arising from the state’s self-assessment and the evaluation of technical areas and policy issues.

The review has three phases:

  • the preparatory or self-assessment phase,
  • the peer review mission
  • the implementation of an action plan of improvement based on the findings of previous phase.

The self-assessment was a critical and intensive part of the project where Ireland assessed itself against the international standards using an extensive computer-based questionnaire supported by the IAEA. this phase of the work took almost 18 months to complete. The output of the self-assessment formed the core of the evidence that was used during the actual review mission in 2015. Ireland completed the self-assessment phase in July 2015 and the outputs from this work were sent to the international regulatory experts, or review team in advance of the mission.

The IRRS Team comprised of ten senior radiation protection experts from nine countries (Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Hezegovina, Brazil, France, Finland, Spain, switzerland and the UK) supported by four IAEA staff memebers originating from Cuba, Sudan, France and Sri Lanka.

Members of the IRRS review team

The review team arrived in Ireland on Sunday 30th August and over the following 10 days carried out a structured audit including discussions with Government officials and site visits. They produced a draft report of their findings, which was presented on the final day of the mission (9th September) to representatives from Government Departments and state agencies, which have a role to play in radiation protection in Ireland.

The Mission Findings

The IAEA team presented a draft of their mission report at the close out meeting. The report sets out the review team’s assessment of Ireland’s compliance with the IAEA’s Fundamental Safety Principles and Safety Requirements. The high level Team’s conclusions as captured in the executive summary and the IAEA press releases were that:

  • The EPA is an effective and independent regulatory body,
  • Ireland actively participates in the global safety regime and 
  • The EPA benefits from experienced, technically competent and well-motivated staff.

The report, finalised by Ireland in February 2016, also includes a series of explicit recommendations, suggestions and good practices. Recommendations are made where gaps are identified between the national provisions and the IAEA safety requirements. Suggestions are made where there is no specific gap but where room for improvement is identified. Good practices are those actions or ways of working that are considered to be exemplary in nature and worthy of sharing with the global radiation safety regulatory community.

The report contains 20 recommendations, eight of which are directed to the EPA and 12 to Government, sixteen suggestions – twelve to EPA and four to Government and eight good practices all of which are attributable to the EPA either directly or indirectly. Details of all the recommendations, suggestions and good practices can be found in the final mission report. It is important to note that the IAEA consistently advises that the number of recommendations or suggestions contained in a report should not be used to compare or benchmark one country against another.

Implementation Phase

The completion of the IRRS mission and the delivery of the IRRS report to Ireland was a significant milestone in this peer review and learning cycle. Finalising an Action Plan that takes account of the IRRS findings as well as any other significant issues identified during the self-assessment will be the next important step.

Ireland will now commence the implementation phase starting with the development of an IRRS Action Plan. This National Action Plan will set out how Ireland plans to address the IRRS mission findings.

Further Information

Project Plan for Ireland's IRRS mission 2015

Update on Ireland's IRRS mission in 2015 presentation given by Dr Tom Ryan

Presentation on the IAEA's IRRS process given by Dr Ahmad Al Khatibeh in May 2014

International Atomic Energy Agency: Integrated Regulatory Review Service webpage

IAEA end of mission press release

IRRS mission report