Contrôle review n°174 - Radioactive material transport safety
The ASN has been supervising radioactive material transports for 10 years now. I therefore thought that this would be a good time to take stock of this sensitive subject in the current issue of Contrôle.
Since 12 June 1997, the ASN has been in charge of the regulations concerning the safety of these transports and of supervising their application. Spent fuel transports have often been the focus of public and media attention. The ASN considers that the problems linked to contamination from spent fuel transport have now been solved. However, the ASN is maintaining its high level of vigilance with regard to the transport conditions applicable to all radioactive materials.
The ASN has used these last 10 years to expand its role in the field of transport: international regulations in which the ASN plays an active drafting role; examination and issue of transport authorisations and permits – which are opportunities for feedback to be fully taken into account by the operators; supervision in normal and emergency situations through our inspections – more than 500 inspections have been carried out over the past 10 years – and through regular organisation of emergency exercises; information of the public, which has progressed by placing the results of our inspections on-line, the creation of an incident rating scale – INES – and regular participation by ASN personnel in local information committees, in symposia, in press conferences, and so on. These past 10 years have led to an improvement in the levels of transport safety, a fact that was commended by the recent IAEA “TRANSAS” audit mission.
Today, the need for improved supervision of all types of radioactive substance transports is felt even more keenly and the ASN's inspections of small-scale nuclear activities are not unrelated to this conviction. Indeed I firmly believe that bringing supervision of basic nuclear installations more into line with that of small scale-nuclear activities will enable us to further boost the efficiency and effectiveness of our transport-related activities.
However, as clearly shown in this issue, there are still some areas in which the ASN can make progress: achieving better coordination between administrations; continuing with greater international convergence, in particular in the interpretation and application of texts that are now international; working to ensure that these regulations are clear and comprehensible – I am indeed sure that this is a precondition to them being correctly implemented; improving supervision of movements by portable devices, the increasing numbers of which require increasingly frequent shipments, involving occasional theft or loss … I am fully aware of the fact that it will be hard to achieve the goal I am defining here, as it concerns not only the ASN, but also other administrations in France and abroad.
There is another program of work, that concerns us directly, and that is implementation of the requirements of the nuclear transparency and safety law. This now gives us a firm legal framework which will enable us to provide effective, legitimate, impartial and credible nuclear supervision, recognised as such by the population and perceived as an international reference. Now that the ASN can impose sanctions, I am convinced that this will contribute to a positive awareness by the operators.
Despite technical and organisational existing arrangements to prevent human and equipment failures, the possibility of a severe nuclear accident
that could result in transboundary radioactive release can never be ruled out. Furthermore, radiological emergencies of various types continue to occur in the world. Public authorities have a major responsibility in the protection of the population in case of accident. This article aims to specify the new french organization to respond to such emergency situations. This organization is based on a national emergency
organization, emergency plans, trained staff which participates in periodic exercices, standards counter-mesasures to assure protection of the population. ASN as adviser of the government and the emergency operation director comments this organization.