ASN benefits from the expertise of technical support organisations when preparing its decisions. Of these organisations, the French Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN, www.irsn.fr) is the main one. For several years, ASN has been making efforts to diversify its experts.
ASN contributes to the process of drawing up regulations by giving its opinion to the French government on draft decrees and draft ministerial orders or by making regulatory decisions of a technical nature.
To make its decisions, ASN usually draws on external technical expertise, particularly that of IRSN, which is currently ASN’s main technical support agency (average of 700 expert opinions rendered each year).
For the past few years ASN has also been attempting to diversify its subcontractors, both national and international. It therefore outsources expert assessment work on specific topics to other bodies with recognised expertise. These include public institutions (the Scientific and Technical Centre for Building - CSTB), private engineering offices (Apave, Bureau Veritas, the Centre for Quality Assurance of Technological Applications in the Medical Field - CAATS, the Nuclear Protection Assessment Study Centre - CEPN), associations committed to protecting human health and the environment (e.g. Robin de Bois association), or expert groups such as the Limousin mines’ joint expert group (GEP Limousin).
When preparing to make decisions, ASN also seeks the opinions and recommendations of seven standing committees of experts co-opted to ASN, all with diverse scientific and technical backgrounds. These standing committees, each one focusing on a specific topic, are made up of experts appointed on the strength of their expertise. They come from universities, associations and auditing bodies, but also include operators with an interest in the subjects covered. Each standing committee can also call upon anyone (in France or abroad) recognised as having particular expertise.
ASN is responsible for verifying compliance with the rules and requirements to which the facilities or activities it monitors are subject. It thus ensures that all users of ionising radiation, all operators of nuclear facilities and all shippers of radioactive materials fully discharge their responsibility and obligations as regards radiation protection and nuclear safety.
To carry out some inspections, ASN relies on approved bodies that are also involved in monitoring nuclear safety or radiation protection, particularly when pressurised equipment specially designed for nuclear facilities needs to be checked. The same applies for technical inspections of sources and devices emitting ionising radiation, protection and alarm systems, and measuring instruments, as well as for monitoring the radiological atmosphere of workplaces and checking the procedures for managing radioactive sources, radioactive waste and radioactive effluents.
The conditions for issuing certification are very clearly defined. In particular, the approved bodies are required to operate under very strict technical, organisational and ethical conditions and compliance is frequently checked.
ASN's Scientific Committee
The meeting on 9 November 2018 saw the official change by the ASN Commission of the Committee of nine members, each appointed for their expertise for a four-year term.
The high standard of the decisions made by ASN relies particularly on robust technical expertise. This expertise has to rely in turn on the best knowledge available at the time.
Consequently ASN, like its main foreign counterparts, is concerned about the availability of the knowledge necessary for expertise to be provided in five, ten or twenty years' time.
It is therefore important that it identifies the research areas that will contribute to acquiring this knowledge. This demands that ASN maintain relationships with those involved in research into nuclear safety and radiation protection on the one hand, and with its foreign counterparts on the other.
The creation of a Scientific Committee for ASN is a central part of the implementation of this policy, and the more so because ASN is not a research body itself and does not wish to be involved in putting together programmes or running them.
Finally, ASN wants to ensure that the needs identified are taken into account when the orientations of research into nuclear safety and radiation protection are defined by IRSN, operators, other French research bodies (universities, industry), and in European and international projects.
ASN Resolution relating to the ASN Scientific Commitee
Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) Opinion n°2012-AV-0147 of 10 April 2012 on the importance of research to ASN and on identifying the first research topics to be further investigated in the fields of nuclear safety and radiation protection
For further information:
The Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN)
IRSN, created by Act 2001-398 of 9 May 2001 and by decree 2002-254 of 22 February 2002, was set up as an independent public industrial and commercial establishment, as part of the national reorganisation of nuclear safety and radiation protection regulation, in order to bring together public expertise and research resources in these fields. IRSN reports to the ministers for the environment, health, research, industry and defence.
The Institute conducts and implements research programmes in order to build its public expertise capacity on the very latest national and international scientific knowledge in the fields of nuclear and radiological risks. It is tasked with providing technical support for the public authorities with competence for safety, radiation protection and security, in both the civil and defence sectors.
IRSN also performs certain public service responsibilities, in particular monitoring of the environment and of populations exposed to ionising radiations.
IRSN manages national databases (national nuclear material accounting, national inventory of radioactive sources, file for monitoring worker exposure to ionising radiations, etc.), and contributes to information of the public concerning the risks linked to ionising radiations.
In 2012, IRSN’s total budget amounted to € 212 million, of which € 84 million were devoted to providing ASN with technical support.
IRSN credits for ASN technical support are covered in part (€ 46.4 million) by a subsidy from the State’s general budget allocated to IRSN and included in action 11 “Research in the field of risks” of programme 190 “Research in the fields of energy and sustainable development and spatial planning”, of the interministerial “Research and higher education” mission. The rest (€37.6 million) is covered by a contribution from the nuclear licensees. This contribution was put into place by the budget amendment act of 29th December 2010.
The Advisory Committees
When preparing its decisions, ASN requests opinions and recommendations from its eight Advisory Committees of Experts (GPE). ASN consults these Advisory Committees on issues within their particular field of competence.
At ASN’s request, the GPEs issue an opinion on certain technical dossiers with particularly high potential consequences prior to decisions being taken.
For most of the subjects covered, the GPE examine the reports produced by IRSN, by an expert working group or by one of the ASN departments. The representatives of the ASN departments or external structures which carried out the expert assessment prior to a GPE meeting, present their conclusions to the group. Following each consultation, the GPE consulted can send to the ASN Director-general a written opinion, plus recommendations where necessary. This independent perspective is of use for the decision-making process.
In addition to being consulted on the dossiers submitted by a licensee, the Advisory Committees contribute to the development of the nuclear safety and radiation protection doctrine. They can be invited to take part in the debate on changes to regulations, or on a general nuclear safety or radiation protection topic.
The GPEs consist of experts appointed individually for their competence and are open to civil society. Their members come from university and association backgrounds and from expert assessment and research organisations. They may also be licensees of nuclear facilities or come from other sectors (industrial, medical, etc.). Participation by foreign experts can help diversify the approach to problems and provide the benefit of experience acquired internationally.
The Advisory Committees of Experts have common rules of procedure and are broken down according to their areas of expertise:
The Advisory Committee for reactors (GPR)
The Advisory Committee for reactors is chaired by Thierry Charles. It consists of experts nominated for their competence in the field of nuclear reactors.
The Advisory Committee for laboratories and plants (GPU)
The Advisory Committee for laboratories and plants is chaired by Alain Dorison. It comprises experts nominated for their competence in the field of laboratories and plants in which radioactive materials are used.
The Advisory Committee for medical exposure (GPMED)
Chaired by Bernard Aubert, the GPMED comprises experts nominated for their competence in the field of radiation protection of health professionals, the public and patients and for medical applications of ionising radiations, including legal medicine.
The Advisory Committee for environment and radiation protection (non-medical) (GPRADE)
Chaired by Jean-Paul Samain, the GPRAD comprises experts nominated for their competence in the field of radiation protection of workers (other than health professionals) and radiation protection of the public, for industrial and research applications of ionising radiations, as well as for natural ionising radiations.
It comprises experts nominated for their competence in the field of transport, in particular representatives from the French committee for certification of companies in training and monitoring of personnel working with ionising radiations.
Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the TSN Act states that “ASN issues the required approvals to the bodies participating in the controls and in the watch over nuclear safety or radiation protection”. Depending on the health or safety stakes involved in a nuclear activity or facility category, ASN may rely on the results of checks carried out by independent organisations and laboratories it has approved and which it monitors via second level checks. ASN thus approves organisations for carrying out the technical inspections required by the regulations in the fields within its scope of competence. The organisations approved in this way carry out:
radiation protection checks
measurement of radon activity concentration in premises open to the public;
evaluations of nuclear pressure equipment conformity and inspection of operational equipment.
The checks carried out by these organisations contribute to ASN’s overview of all nuclear activities. In order to approve those organisations which apply, ASN ensures that they perform the inspections in accordance with their technical, organisational and ethical obligations and in compliance with the rules of professional good practice. Compliance with these provisions should enable the required level of quality to be obtained and maintained. ASN ensures that maximum benefit is gained from the approval issued, in particular through regular exchanges with the organisations it has approved and the mandatory transmission of an annual report, in order to:
exploit operating experience feedback;
improve the approval process;
improve intervention conditions.
ASN also approves laboratories to conduct analyses requiring a high level of measurement quality if the results are to be usable. It thus approves laboratories:
for monitoring of environmental radioactivity (see point 4);
for worker dosimetry (see chapter 1).
The list of approvals issued by ASN is kept up to date on its website (“bulletin officiel de l’ASN/agréments d’organismes” section, available in French only).
In 2009, ASN issued:
30 new or renewed approvals for organisations responsible for radiation protection inspections;
29 approvals for level 1 radon activity concentration measurements;
7 approvals for worker dosimetry (4 for internal monitoring of workers and 3 for external monitoring of workers).
398 approvals for measurement of environmental radioactivity.
ASN sends the General Directorate for Health an opinion on the approval of the laboratories analysing radioactivity in water intended for human consumption. It sends the ministers responsible for nuclear safety and/or transport an opinion on approval of the organisations responsible for:
training the drivers of vehicles transporting radioactive materials (class 7 dangerous goods);
organising safety adviser examinations for transport of dangerous goods by road, rail or navigable waterway;
certifying the conformity of packagings designed to contain 0.1 kg or more of uranium hexafluoride (initial and periodic checks);
issuing type approval for tank-containers and mobile tanker units intended for transport of class 7 dangerous goods by road;
initial and periodic checks on tankers intended for the transport of dangerous goods.
ASN’s other technical support organisations
To diversify its expertise and take advantage of other specific skills, ASN also has its own credit allocation. A significant part of this budget is allocated to subjects concerning exposure of the population to radon in the home, as well as to the work of the Steering Committee for managing the post-accident phase (CODIRPA). In 2012, ASN continued its cooperation with:
the Nuclear Protection Evaluation Centre (CEPN) : Core health project and support for the work of the CODIRPA;
"Robin des Bois" Association for the study of phosphogypsum dumps and ash thermal coal
the Bureau Veritas: definition of check-points and criteria for radiation protection appraisal of X-ray generators used in the industrial, veterinary and research sectors;
the pluralistic experts group for the Limousin mines (GEP Limousin) which assists the public authorities on issues concerning the rehabilitation of the former uranium mining sites;
foreign experts (English and Belgian) storage of MOX waste MELOX, as against the expertise of IRSN.