Germany

The federal structure of Germany has created a different approach which could be of interest to other countries. The Federal government has legisla­tive power over peaceful development of nuclear power, but the licensing authority belongs to the governments of the Lander or States, which act on behalf of the Federal authority. Technical expertise is mainly held within public or semi-public entities which are called Technical Support Organizations (TSOs), as is common European practice.

Two peculiarities distinguish the German approach to licensing NPPs: there is only one time-unlimited license covering the site, design and con­struction, operation, substantial changes to the licensed features, and decommissioning. This license is issued in the form of partial licenses, typi­cally about four to ten in number. This allows features which need to be constructed only in later stages to be designed in detail at a later time. In this way, the most recent technology can be used and the overall construc­tion time may be shortened. The general design needs to be elaborated to a certain detail at the time of the first partial license. The information pro­vided must allow the authority to make a preliminary positive statement on the whole project. It must also give reasonable assurance that the later detailed design will not result in conflicts with already licensed or even constructed features.

Another peculiarity of the German case which is of special interest is the requirement that precautions against reactor damage must be taken when deemed necessary according to the state of science and technology. This means that no fixed safety goal is given. Rather, the authority has to deter­mine in each licensing procedure what precautions the current state-of-the — art requires. The reference to the state of science means that precautions are not limited to measures for which proven technology exists. If the state of science so requires, new technology has to be developed. The purpose of this arrangement was that, in a rapidly developing area, protection should always be in line with the most recent insights. In practice there have been regulations and standards which normally could be assumed to represent the state-of-the-art, but still the authority has had to assess whether this was indeed the case. This approach is called dynamic safety precaution.

A license must be withdrawn in case of a significant endangerment to personnel or the public, and if the remedy cannot be implemented in rea­sonable time. It must also be withdrawn if adequate provision for damage compensation cannot be demonstrated. In 2002, the maximum electricity production of plants was limited by law to the equivalent of about 32 oper­ating years. The law had to be changed because any of the conditions for withdrawing a license applied. In 2010 the terms of the first agreement were changed to prolong the lifetime of the operating plants to about 40 years for older plants and about 46 years for newer ones. In both cases these changes were accompanied by an agreement between the government and plant operators. In the current situation, as a reaction to the events in Fukushima, the German government has announced the intention to accel­erate the phase-out from nuclear energy by revising these lifetimes.

In the German practice, much attention is given to surveillance during operation. The Internationale Landerkommission Kerntechnik (ILK) has provided information on surveillance activities in the State of Baden- Whrttemberg (ILK, 2006). A so-called basic surveillance is conducted by reviewing the operator’s reports and by performing inspections at the plant, and evaluating their results. This activity takes about five person-years per unit and year. The inspections are performed according to an annual inspec­tion programme with a fixed structure but including some flexibility to take into account former performance and current problems. The programme provides inspection goals, details the items to be considered and points out the time to be spent on the various areas. In total the time spent at the plant with inspections amounts to about 48 days a year per unit. The operator is informed about the results of the inspections and the expectations of the authorities in routine meetings. In case of significant deviations, feedback is made by letter which states the actions the authority requires.

In the normal practice another part of the surveillance is reactive and generally triggered by reportable events at the plant. In the Baden- Wurttemberg experience a working group of individuals with different backgrounds convenes to make a first assessment, and identifies the infor­mation needed or the actions to be required from the operator. The opera­tor’s activities and reports are then followed by the department in charge of the affected unit until the authority is satisfied that the reaction taken is appropriate.

In the German practice, changes to the plant or licensed documents have to be submitted by the operator to the authority. Depending on the signifi­cance of the change, it may need an approval by the authority or a change of the license. Changes are managed by a standard procedure which includes a classification and an assessment by a TSO on the basis of which the authority decides. The work on reportable events and changes takes two to three person-years per year and unit. In performing surveillance, the author­ity is heavily supported by TSOs. In addition to the effort undertaken by the authority, TSOs spend some 30 person-years per year and unit. An important part of their work is the review of tests and inspections which the operator performs. This is done mainly by review of documentation and partially by attending tests and inspections. The TSOs give their assessments in the evaluation of reportable events and on proposed changes. They par­ticipate in the investigations on focal issues and review the 10-year safety reviews performed by the licensee.

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