IAEA Mission Sees Strengthened Radiation Safety in Malta; Human Resources Challenges Remain

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said Malta has significantly strengthened its regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety by establishing a new regulatory body and adopting a nuclear safety and radiation protection law. The team also noted areas where challenges remain, including in recruiting and training regulatory staff.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team on 12 March concluded a five-day follow-up mission to review Malta’s implementation of recommendations and suggestions made during an initial IRRS mission in 2015. The follow-up mission was conducted at the request of the Government of Malta and hosted by the Commission for the Protection from Ionising and Non-Ionising Radiation (the Commission), the new regulatory body set up within the Ministry for Tourism and Consumer Protection.

IRRS missions are designed to strengthen the effectiveness of the national nuclear and radiation safety regulatory infrastructure, based on IAEA safety standards and international good practices, while recognizing the responsibility of each country to ensure nuclear and radiation safety.

Malta has no nuclear power plants or research reactors. It utilizes radiation sources in medical and industrial applications.

The IRRS team said the Maltese Government showed a strong commitment to radiation safety and that most of the recommendations and suggestions identified in 2015 had been addressed. In addition to the new nuclear safety and radiation protection law and the new regulatory body, the team said the Government had increased the Commission’s budget for regulatory oversight.

The review team also welcomed the Commission’s issuance of new safety regulations in line with international safety standards, the establishment of a management system for the authorization of facilities and activities and the improvements made in national emergency preparedness and response system arrangements.

“Malta has made considerable efforts in revising the legal and regulatory framework and further enhancing its alignment with IAEA safety standards,” said IRRS team leader Ritva Bly, Principal Adviser at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. “However, the Commission faces a critical situation related to human resources, in particular the training of staff and knowledge management.”

The review team recommended that the Commission continue its efforts to recruit new staff and develop a human resources plan for staff training and knowledge management and to continue the development and implementation of an inspection programme.

The team also made two new recommendations for the Commission to establish emergency preparedness and response regulatory requirements for licensees and to establish diagnostic reference levels for medical exposures incurred in medical imaging.

“I am pleased that the mission report recognizes the progress Malta has made since 2015,” said Lourdes Farrugia, Chairperson of the Commission. “It will help us to focus on issues that are important for the future development of the regulatory infrastructure.”

The IRRS team comprised four senior regulatory experts from Canada, Finland, Greece and Romania, and three IAEA staff members. The final mission report will be provided to the Government in about three months. The Government plans to make the report public.

“The Government invited the IAEA to organize this IRRS mission specifically to ensure that Maltese regulatory structures are in accordance with IAEA safety standards,” said Deo Debattista, Parliamentary Secretary for Consumer Protection and Public Cleansing in the Ministry for Tourism and Consumer Protection. “The Government sees the IRRS process as an invaluable opportunity to exchange views with and learn from an international team of experts.”

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