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Press release of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)


IAEA Expert Review Mission Completes Assessment of Fuel Cleaning Incident at Paks Nuclear Power Plant Budapest, 25 June 2003 -- The IAEA today completed its expert review mission to investigate the 10 April fuel cleaning incident at the Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary. The mission was requested by the Hungarian Government to provide an independent assessment of the causes and actions taken by the plant and Hungarian authorities. The team was composed of nuclear and radiation experts from the IAEA, Austria, Canada, Finland, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and the United States. In a press conference, team leader Miroslav Lipar highlighted the team’s findings in five areas: On management, the team concluded that the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority and Paks are committed to improving the safety of the plant. They noted that as a result of steam generator decontamination in previous years, deposits became attached to the fuel assemblies. A decision was made to clean the fuel and contract an outside company to develop and operate a fuel cleaning process. The team found that the design and operation of the fuel cleaning tank and system was not accomplished in the manner prescribed by the IAEA Safety Standards. Neither the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority nor Paks used conservative decision-making in their safety assessments for this unproven fuel cleaning system. The team determined that there was an over-reliance on the contractor that had been selected for the design, management and operation of the fuel cleaning system. Time pressure related to a prescribed fuel outage schedule, combined with confidence generated by previous successful fuel cleaning operations, contributed to a weak assessment of a new design and operation, which involved fuel directly removed from the reactor following a planned shutdown. On regulatory oversight, the IAEA team concluded that the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority underestimated the safety significance of the proposed designs for the fuel cleaning system, which resulted in a less than rigorous review and assessment than should have been necessary. It also resulted in the issuance of a "license in principal" which lacked the requirement for an expanded review and assessment. On the fuel cleaning operation in the course of the incident, the team found that the contractor worked without proper supervision of the Paks plant. In general, personnel involved did not receive adequate training in the safety aspects of this specific operation. Additionally, operating and emergency procedures were not sufficiently developed. On radiation protection, the IAEA team found that the Paks undertook appropriate monitoring and assessments of the radiation exposure to staff. Based upon the data or dose assessments provided by Paks and other authorities, the IAEA team found no indication that the annual dose limits for occupational exposure as specified in IAEA Basic Safety Standards have been exceeded. The team also agreed with the Paks and regulatory authority’s assessment that the annual dose limits for the general public resulting from the release specified in IAEA Basic Safety Standards have not been exceeded. On transparency, the IAEA team was given total access to all information and personnel at Paks and at Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority. The team was allowed to independently verify any information that it believed was relevant to its review. Both Paks and the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority said they would welcome further IAEA assistance as they continue to review and manage this incident and improve safety at the facility. The IAEA team also provided a number of recommendations for improvement in the above and in other areas. The team today turned over a draft of their findings and recommendations to the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority in the form of "Technical Notes" for factual comment only. This document will be reviewed at IAEA headquarters and submitted as a final report to the Hungarian Government within one month. The Hungarian Government intends to make the final report available to the public.