The Guidelines on the Safe Design and Operation of Nuclear Reactors provide an insight into state-of-the-art science and technology in the field of nuclear safety for nuclear reactors. The guidelines, which were published on 19 October 2015, are an important part of the frame of reference the Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS) uses when assessing applications for Nuclear Energy Act licences.

The ANVS is constantly working on ways of improving nuclear safety and radiation protection in the Netherlands. To this end, we regulate existing and new nuclear facilities. Our work also involves the regulation of licensees who use applications like hospitals and laboraties that may involve the release of ionising radiation. We assess licence applications for facilities (including new facilities): the ANVS only issues licences to new facilities that are compliant with the most modern safety requirements. The Guidelines on the Safe Design and Operation of Nuclear Reactors sets out the details of these modern safety requirements.

Current developments prevail

The science and technology of nuclear safety for nuclear reactors are constantly evolving. Accordingly, existing licensees and those applying for a licence must make explicit allowance for these trends. For instance, the ANVS can reject a licence application for the establishment of an obsolete type of nuclear reactor, even if that reactor meets all of the other requirements. In addition, licensees must regularly assess their facilities (or have them assessed by others) in the light of the latest scientific and technical developments. The purpose of these evaluations is to determine whether (and – if so – to what extent) the nuclear safety of their facilities can be improved.

Safety requirements

The Guidelines on the Safe Design and Operation of Nuclear Reactors contain details of the safety requirements for the design and operation of light-water-cooled nuclear reactors. The guidelines provide an insight into state-of-the-art science and technology with regard to the nuclear safety of nuclear reactors. This concerns both power reactors and research reactors.

There were two direct reasons for drawing up the guidelines:

  1. The initiative to create a new research reactor for medical applications at Petten (the PALLAS project);
  2. The planned modernisation of the existing research reactor at Delft (investment in the Higher Education Reactor (HER) at TU Delft, the OYSTER project).

These initiatives will only be granted a licence if they comply with the latest developments in the field of safety.

Background to the Guidelines on the Safe Design and Operation of Nuclear Reactors

Guidelines are documents issued by, or on behalf of, the competent authority. This document sets out that authority’s vision on certain issues, so that existing licensees and those applying for a licence can take this into account in advance.

The cornerstones of the Guidelines on the Safe Design and Operation of Nuclear Reactors (and especially the Dutch Safety Requirements (DSR) component) include the nuclear safety requirements for existing nuclear reactors that the German authorities issued in November 2012. These requirements have been tightened up, based on the latest insights regarding the safety of new nuclear reactors. In practice, this means that they incorporate the latest recommendations by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and WENRA (the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association) concerning reactor design and operation. Finnish legislation is also used as a reference for various topics in the field of the construction of new nuclear reactors. Finally, the lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster have been incorporated into the DSR.

Sample requirement

One example of a safety requirement from the Guidelines on the Safe Design and Operation of Nuclear Reactors concerns responses to natural disasters. In accordance with the guidelines, licence applicants must now also make explicit allowance for potential combinations of natural disasters. The same applies to the effects of natural disasters on the various safety features, both those within the facility and those associated with infrastructure in the vicinity.

An IAEA team has reviewed the draft DSR and has put forward various recommendations which, for the most part, have been implemented in the definitive DSR. The review’s final conclusion was that the content of the guidelines meets a high safety standard.

Online consultation process

The ANVS attaches great importance to the inclusion of wide-ranging consultations in the process of drafting policies and regulations. The Guidelines on the Safe Design and Operation of Nuclear Reactors are an important part of the frame of reference for assessing applications for Nuclear Energy Act licences. Accordingly, the ANVS submitted the Guidelines on the Safe Design and Operation of Nuclear Reactors in April, via an online consultation process.