RSRP is a follow-up to an early US NRC Program funded by Freedom Support Act to improve safety of the Soviet Built reactors in Armenia, Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine initiated in 1991. In 2001 many countries of the Former Soviet Union were still recovering from 10 years of social-economic upheaval. The regulatory authorities were not well established, had no clear division of responsibility, were poorly funded and had difficulty executing their responsibility often in the absence of basic laws and regulations. A contributing factor to RSRP initiation were a number of illicit trafficking events that gave rise to a concern about the use of radiation sources in a radiological dispersal device (an RDD or “dirty bomb”) or radiological exposure device (RED).
Based on existing relationships with Kazakhstan Atomic Energy Committee (KAEC) and Armenian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ANRA), the RSRP initiated country-wide inventorying of radiation sources in Kazakhstan and Armenia. In 2003, Nuclear and Radiation Safety Center of Armenia developed RASOD (Radiation Sources Database) that served as a base for national registries of radiation sources and x-ray devices. In the following years many more FSU countries joined RSRP and completed the inventory and registry tasks in Georgia (2006), Uzbekistan (2007), Tajikistan (2008), Moldova (2009), and Kyrgyzstan (2008). RSRP also supported the improvement of the national registry in Ukraine. While the purpose of RSRP was not to locate orphan sources, many of previously unknown radiation sources were discovered and relocated to temporary storage facilities. In the process disused sources of lower activity categories were moved to better protected temporary storage locations. The national registries became a very useful source of information to other partner country agencies including customs and border control.
Once the location of sources was verified, the RSRP developed licensing processes and reached out to the radiation sources user community. RSRP conducted user seminars to explain user legal obligation to license their activities and conduct operations in the safe and secure manner. This outreach resulted in much increased application submittals and issuance of licenses. RSRP recognized the need for and provided for temporary staff augmentation to handle increased demand for license reviews. This was followed by the work to develop inspection programs and procedures and to provide hands-on training for partner agency inspectors.
Many of the RSRP countries still suffered from the inadequate laws and regulations. RSRP took on the responsibility to assist partner regulator in major Laws on use of nuclear energy, on licensing, on radiation protection. While some countries have chosen to develop new Laws, others have proceeded to update specific articles of the Law. Because the Laws are approved at the highest level of legislature it took significant effort and time to promulgate these Laws. RSRP provided support to development of regulation and guidance (government decrees, ratification of international agreements, basic safety standards, technical requirements on safety and security, licensing and inspection). Much of this work is based on the Code of Conduct (IAEA, 2004). RSRP recognizes that most of the partner countries operate relatively small size radiation protection programs. Therefore, RSRP is oriented towards “smaller program” countries that recently developed radiation protection programs (Lithuania, Czech Republic). Technical experts from RSC (Lithuania), SUJB and SURO (Czech Republic) provided invaluable technical support in a variety of areas.
From the program inception the RSRP supported the development of physical infrastructure required for day-to-day oversight. Depending on the country this included support with office space, transportation, office and radiological equipment, publishing (both internet and hard copy). RSRP conducts limited training that is not offered by other programs. This started with the post-graduate certification course on radiation protection in Panama in 2011 and in 2012. At present the program is in its 3rd academic year offered as a Master Level program at the UDELAS (Universidad Especializada de las Americas) in Panama City, Panama. To-date the Radiation Protection Program has graduated some 50 professionals all of whom found professional employment in the public (regulator) and private sector upon graduation. RSRP supports excellent workshop on physical protection of sources offered by US NRC in a number of countries and provides hands-on inspection training at facilities for radiotherapy.
As the program expanded the N&RSC of Armenia developed a number of additional software modules in support of the regulatory functions of licensing and inspection. The Advanced Regulatory Information System (ARIS vers 2.2 and 2.5) (www.aris.am) now includes modules for AUTHORIZATION and INSPECTION. Regulators in some 20 countries rely on ARIS in their dail; activities.
In 2010-16 the RSRP program expanded to countries of Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. In Latin America the programs for inventory and development of national registry have been substantially completed in Paraguay, Guatemala, Uruguay and Panama and are in progress in Dominican Republic and Bolivia. Additional new inventory activities are contemplated in Ecuador. In Africa, the inventory program is underway in Uganda, Zambia, Chad, Senegal and Mauritania. Jordan is the first country in the Middle East to participate in the RSRP inventory project. Additional activities are contemplated in several countries in Africa.
As the inventory programs reached completion in many countries, the program is refocusing on providing consultancy to several countries in Latin America on licensing and inspection. This support contains elements of training and regulatory advice for new technology such as cyclotrons of various design and medical and industrial facilities that operate radiation sources. Such consultancy was provided in Colombia, Dominican Republic, Panama, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Additional consultancies are planned for 2017-2018.
As part of the overall effort to assist partners in strengthening their ability to regulate the utilization of radiation sources and machine produced radiation, the RSRP conducts consultancies to assess regulatory programs. The objective of a several day long mission is to determine if appropriate laws and regulations are in place to give the regulatory body the authority and standards that are necessary to achieve success. Following that determination, activities such as licensing, inspection and enforcement are discussed. These reviews allow RSRP to determine areas where support is required and to develop action plan to achieve closing regulatory gaps. RSRP provides regulatory experts to support IAEA program review missions to achieve similar goals. To date RSRP participated in IAEA missions to Jamaica, Honduras, El Salvador and New Papua New Guinea.
While RSRP is principally a bi-lateral program, the countries do benefit from a periodic regional meetings where regulators are able to share their experience and discuss their needs. These meetings are geographically organized and hosted. To-date the Former Soviet Union partner countries conducted periodic meetings in Russian language (Armenia , Moldova[2008, 2015], Georgia[2010, 2016], and Uzbekistan . The Spanish language meetings for the RSRP user group took place in 2013 in Panama City and in Montevideo, Uruguay in 2016. The first RSRP Africa meeting is planned for 2018.