REGULATORY OVERSIGHT OF THE NEW NPP UNITS
According to the Act CXVI of 1996 on Atomic Energy, the usage of atomic energy shall take place solely with licenses and permits defined by law and under continuous regulatory oversight. The licensing system of nuclear facilities in Hungary has two main features in general:
- Distributed regulatory system, meaning different authorities are responsible for various aspects of the nuclear facilities. For example, the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (hereinafter: HAEA) is responsible for nuclear safety, security and safeguards issues, but environmental protection issues are handled by the local government offices. The cooperation between these different authorities is predetermined in specific laws and government decrees, which are often supplemented by cooperation agreements between the parties.
- Multi-step licensing system, meaning that during the preparation, design, construction and commissioning stages of a new nuclear facility project a step-by-step licensing and permitting system is used. It should be noted that, due to the distributed regulatory system, various aspects of a new nuclear facility are licensed by different authorities. During these licensing procedures relevant authorities are joining the procedure as specialized co-authorities and review their specific expert areas.
Certain authorities issue the required licenses as part of their own licensing procedures; additionally, as co-authorities, they must demonstrate their own unique aspects in the licensing procedures of other authorities. The HAEA is responsible for the nuclear safety, security and safeguards licensing of the construction and operation of the nuclear power plant, and also for System, Structure and Component (hereinafter: SSC) level permitting.
Facility level procedures follow the life cycle of a nuclear facility. Therefore, the site adequacy shall be assessed keeping this in mind and before starting the essential part of the investment, technical plans and safety analyses of the nuclear power plant shall be fully developed, which the authority will review and, in case of their compliance, issue a construction license. The constructed facility shall be put into operation, which means testing the functionality of implemented systems and then - after inserting fuel assemblies containing nuclear fuel - carrying out a series of measurements. If everything operates in accordance with the safety analyses and plans, and in compliance with the requirements, then the new reactor units can get an operating license for a longer term. While conducting inspections HAEA verifies the compliance of the operation with the issued licenses.
SSC level permitting is structured in a way to have a regulatory approval step at each significant design, manufacturing and installation stage. The following permitting steps are described in the HAEA Decree No. 1/2022 (IV. 29.), and its appendixes, the Nuclear Safety Codes (hereinafter: NSC):
- Manufacturing permit (NSC chapter 1.3.2.)
- Procurement permit (NSC chapter 1.3.3.)
- Assembly permit (NSC chapter 1.3.4.)
- Operation permit (NSC chapter 1.3.5.)
- Building or demolition permit (NSC chapter 1.5.2.)
- Occupancy permit (NSC chapter 1.5.3.)
- Construction or demolition permit for elevators (NSC chapter 1.5.4.)
- Occupancy permit for elevators (NSC chapter 1.5.5.)
Specific rules apply for each permit type on how and when they can be issued.
During the site investigation and evaluation, the given site shall be assessed in terms of whether it is suitable for accommodating a nuclear facility. In addition to the above, all those characteristics of the site shall be identified during its investigation and evaluation, which shall be taken into account in the design of the facility. The first procedure of the site permit is the regulatory approval of site investigation and evaluation program under a separate procedure in order to ensure that the specification of the site characteristics occurs in a systematic and planned manner, the program covers all areas of expertise to be examined and the suitability of the investigation and evaluation methods will be estimated before the start of the survey.
In the second procedure of the site permit the application for a site permit can be submitted to the authority after the investigation and evaluations prescribed in the already approved program have been executed. Detailed requirements for the site permit are contained in the HAEA Decree No. 1/2022 (IV. 29.), Section 17, Paragraph 1, items a)-b) and Paragraph 19-a, as well as in the NSC, items 1.2.2.0100. - 1.2.2.0800.
Site Investigation and Evaluation Procedure
In the site investigation and evaluation license application the site investigation and evaluation programmes and the methods and theoretical considerations to be used as parts of the programme shall be described, and it shall be demonstrated that the methods developed for the determination, investigation and evaluation of the site are suitable to determine the site-related data required by the design and to determine the suitability of the site. The site investigation and evaluation programme shall be attached to the application.
The nuclear safety authority, by granting the legally binding site investigation and evaluation license shall accept the suitability of the investigation and evaluation methods used in the site investigation and evaluation programme and the theoretical considerations and authorize the performance of further investigations required by the site investigation and evaluation programme license. The site investigation and evaluation license shall be effective until the site license becomes valid, but until a maximum of 5 years from its issuance date. The MVM Paks II. Ltd. company submitted the site investigation and evaluation license application for the new units to the HAEA on 11 April, 2014. While reviewing the application (hereinafter referred to as: program), HAEA has analyzed the methods of investigation and evaluation, as well as the theoretical considerations set out in the program from the standpoint whether they are suitable and sufficient to determine the site characteristics, judge the site suitability and thereby substantiate the site permit. The program covers the following areas of expertise:
- geographical investigation and evaluation of the location;
- man-caused hazards;
- earth science;
- geotechnics and hydrogeology;
- determining data, required to evaluate the dispersion of radioactive releases and to plan nuclear emergency response measures.
In the procedure, the Pécs Mining Administration of the Hungarian Mining and Geological Bureau (Magyar Bányászati és Földtani Hivatal Pécsi Bányakapitánysága) took part as co-authority and reviewed the compliance with geological, mining and technical safety requirements. Under the procedure, HAEA held a public hearing, the minutes of which were published on its website.
HAEA's Scientific Council supported the review of the application through its expert opinion, in which they proposed to accept the program. Following the evaluation of the submission, on 14 November 2014, HAEA by its Decision No. HA5919 granted the site investigation and evaluation license to the MVM Paks II. Ltd. company.
Site License Procedure
In the site license application it shall be demonstrated that the site characteristics that would exclude the possibility of construction as laid down in Nuclear Safety Code No. 7 do not exists, and the implementation of the licensed site investigation and evaluation programme, and the determination of the site-related design data shall be described. The complex final report describing the results of the site investigation and evaluation programme shall be attached to the application. As a part of the complex final report or in a separate document the derivation of site characteristics and their substantiation shall be described.
The nuclear safety authority by granting the site license shall accept the justification of lack of such site characteristics that would exclude the possibility of construction, furthermore the suitability of the conduction of site survey, assessment of data determined based on the site survey and the site-related design data derived from the assessment and the suitability of the site. The site license shall be valid until the construction license become valid but until a maximum of 5 years from its issuance data.
Under the nuclear safeguards licensing, in the case of planned nuclear facility, the applicant requests HAEA to establish the design-basis threat. The application shall contain the site suitability analysis for physical security aspects. On 26th October 2016 the MVM Paks II. Ltd. submitted the site license application. The Hungarian version of the license application are available in Hungarian at the website of the licensee. Under the procedure, HAEA held a public hearing on 13th December 2016, the minutes of which were published on its website.
Following the evaluation of the submission, on 30 March 2017, HAEA by its Decision No. P2-HA0008 granted the site license to the MVM Paks II. Ltd. company.
Based on Act CXVI of 1996 on Atomic Energy, Section 17, paragraph (8) and HAEA Decree No. 1/2022 (IV. 29.), Section 21/E, prior to the planned launching of the construction licensing procedure of a nuclear facility, the licensee of the nuclear facility can submit preliminary safety information (hereinafter referred to as: PSIR) as determined in a HAEA decree to inform the atomic energy oversight organization of preliminary compliance with the safety requirements of the planned nuclear facility (preliminary safety information).The submission of PSIR shortens the administration deadline of the procedure of construction licensing from 18 months to 12 months (Act CXVI of 1996 on Atomic Energy, Section 12 paragraph (8)). It shall be demonstrated in the construction license application that the nuclear facility described in the license application can be constructed and safely operated on the site provided with the site license, the site properties specified during the site assessment and to be taken into account during the design have been fully taken into account and the facility has appropriate protection against external hazard factors A Preliminary Safety Analysis Report (hereinafter referred to as: PSAR) shall be attached to the license application, in which it shall be demonstrated that the nuclear safety requirements for the nuclear facility to be established that fall within the scope of the construction licensing procedure are met. The PSAR and the underlying documentation shall have a level of detail that enables the authority to ascertain the fulfillment of the requirements without reviewing further documentation. Based on the application, the nuclear safety authority will determine the hold points to be used for control purpose (see: NSC, item 9.3.4.0400.) and will plan the inspections.
Activities that can be performed on the basis of the construction license:
preparation of the area necessary for the construction of a nuclear facility, thus especially soil replacement and piling;
- construction of the buildings and building structures of the nuclear facility, construction of systems from system components with or without safety classification (manufacture, procurement and installation) according to the design furthermore, the appropriate construction of the entire nuclear facility by the appropriate connection of systems;
- performance of systems, structures and components function tests(without fuel assemblies containing nuclear material).
Detailed requirements in connection with the construction licensing procedure are prescribed in the Nuclear Safety Code1., items 1.2.3.0100 - 1.2.3.0600.
It is important to note that the NPP's physical construction activities are not permitted by the construction license alone. Additional SSC level permits (building, manufacturing, assembly, procurement, etc.) are necessary to start the actual construction work. The majority of these permits can only be obtained once the construction license has been issued, with a few exceptions, mostly related to site preparation. Also, based on the construction license only a limited scope of plant commissioning is allowed without the use of nuclear fuel.
The implementation of the physical protection system of the nuclear facility requires a permit from the authority in accordance with the physical protection plan of the facility. The application for a permit - in case of a nuclear facility planned to be established - shall be submitted together with the construction license application. The permit issued is valid for 5 years. The licensee submitted the PSIR, whereby the experts of HAEA gain appropriate scope of preparatory information in relation to preliminary compliance of the planned nuclear power plant with the nuclear safety requirements. In the preliminary safety information report, with regard to the type of the unit, the compliance with and deviations from the nuclear safety requirements of this decree and the deviations of the unit type from its original design shall be described. Technical data and analyses available at the time of submission from the preliminary safety analysis report of a unit operating or being constructed that is of the same type as the planned unit shall be used and described for that purpose.
On August 25, 2022, the HAEA granted the license (Decision No. P2-HA0375) for the construction of units 5 and 6, as well as designated the safety zone of these nuclear power plant units to the Paks II. Nuclear Power Plant Ltd. The procedures for obtaining the construction license and designating a safety zone commenced on July 1, 2020. The construction license alone does not entitle the licensee to start the construction works, for those additional specific (thousands of) permitting procedures will be necessary on the level of system, system component and building. Exceptions to this are building permits related to site-preparatory activities (such soil excavation, soil improvement, cut-off wall) and manufacturing permits for the long lead items, which could be issued even before the construction license was obtained.
The condition for granting of licenses of HAEA is always the fulfillment of the requirements contained in the Nuclear Safety Codes.
In the license application it shall be demonstrated, that the construction of the nuclear facility is in compliance with the designer’s intentions, the realized conditions are in compliance with the legal requirements. The application for license must be accompanied with a preliminary version of the Final Safety Analysis Report.
The commissioning license shall authorize to perform the following activities:
the first placement of fuel assemblies into the nuclear reactor;
- scheduled execution of commissioning programmes;
- performance of tests of systems and system components important to nuclear safety under active circumstances;
- operation at rated power in the case of nuclear power plant units from the date of the successful execution of the commissioning programme to the date specified in the license.
The license for commissioning is valid for 12 months from its issuance. Detailed requirements for commissioning license are contained in the NSC, items 1.2.4.0100 - 1.2.4.0600. The purpose of licensing nuclear safeguards is to prevent, detect and hinder the (further) nuclear proliferation - non-peaceful uses of nuclear material. Prevention at the facility level can be implemented using so-called proliferation-resistant technical solutions that prevent nuclear proliferation, and through requiring rigorous inventory of nuclear materials, imposing reporting obligations and conducting official control, thereby the deterrence can be achieved due to a high probability of early detection of diversions and/or misuses. Basic legal requirements connected with the facility level safeguard system, which must be considered yet at the designing stage, are summarized in the HAEA guide No. SG-2 - “Új atomerőművi blokk biztosítéki (Safeguards) követelményeinek teljesítéséhez” (To meet the safeguard requirements of a new nuclear units). The application for first safeguard registration shall be submitted by the licensee at least 7 months before the arrival of fuel assemblies to the facility.
The license application shall contain the modifications concerning the Final Safety Analysis Report which became necessary during the execution of the commissioning programme shall be summarized and substantiated, and it shall be demonstrated that the safe interim storage or final disposal of radioactive waste generated by the nuclear facility – including spent fuel in the case of nuclear reactors – is in accordance with the latest proven scientific results and international expectations and experience.
In the possession of operation license, the nuclear facility can be operated under the conditions and for the duration specified in the license. The nuclear safety authority shall set the duration of the operational license taking into consideration the operational features of the relevant nuclear facility and other circumstances, but it shall not extend beyond the designed service life of the nuclear facility. Detailed requirements for the licensing of operation are contained in the NSC items 1.2.5.0100 - 1.2.5.0800.