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IRRS Follow-up Mission: Interview with the mission team leader


Three years ago we interviewed Michael R. Johnson, team leader of the 2015 IRRS Mission. In this year’s follow-up mission, there is a smaller number of experts in the delegation and they have to finish their work in a shorter time. In one week, they have to review the present situation, conclude several interviews, and create the draft of the new report. Speaking about the new follow-up mission, we invited Mr Michael R. Johnson for an interview again to share some interesting details about the work they are here to perform.

What is the main focus of a follow-up mission like this? Only the previous findings, recommendations and suggestions are the basis of the work, or the focus is broader and even new suggestions can come up?  

Whereas the objective of the initial mission in 2015 was to review Hungary’s safety regulation of all nuclear facilities and radiological activities, the main focus of the follow-up mission is to review the progress made by Hungary in implementing improvements resulting from recommendations and suggestions during the initial mission. In that sense, the follow-up mission activities are more narrowly focused.  Where appropriate, the team will also address areas of significant change since the last mission. While reviewing the progress made, it might well be that new gaps or potential improvements are identified, leading to the offering of new recommendations and suggestions.

Do you also check if the good practices you found three years ago are still in place, and if there are new ones, or you only focus on the areas that should be improved?

Good practices are intended to recognize and outstanding organization, arrangement, program or performance superior to be observed elsewhere. Several good practices were identified for Hungary during the initial mission. These good practices were shared with the international community to assist other countries in their efforts to enhance their regulatory programs. Good practices go beyond the fulfilment of current requirements or expectations. Therefore, they are not required to be maintained and do not receive review during the follow-up mission. Regardless of whether they are maintained, they may continue to be used by other regulatory bodies as a model in their general drive for excellence. The IRRS team may identify new good practices as it reviews progress made and changes that may have occurred since the initial mission.  

Does the one week time frame and the smaller team mean that it is necessary to be more effective, is it a bigger challenge compared to the previous mission?

There is always an expectation that the IRRS mission be conducted effectively and efficiently.  However, a follow up mission is usually smaller compared to initial missions because the team is more focused on specific topics (i.e., those resulting in recommendations and suggestions of the initial mission) and does not need to review the entire national regulatory infrastructure for nuclear and radiation safety.  In addition, because the team members participated in the 2015 mission, the team is already familiar with the national arrangements. This allows the follow up mission to be completed in a shorter amount of time.  

This is the 100th IRRS Mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Does this fact have a special importance for the team?  

The 100th anniversary of the IRRS mission reflects strongly on the success of the IRRS programme, its continuous improvement and its lasting value in improving the performance of national regulatory bodies around the world in implementing the IAEA safety standards. Therefore, the anniversary is a landmark for the IAEA and its member states. While each mission carries an equal sense of importance for IRRS participants, the team is particularly proud to mark this special accomplishment.

The interview was made by Gábor Körmendi, communication officer of the HAEA.