In November 2023, Switzerland hosted the IPPAS review mission conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Nine international experts undertook an assessment of both the legal framework governing the security of radioactive material and its practical implementation.

Symbol für Prävention: Radioaktive Quelle in einem Tresor

This mission was conducted in close collaboration between FOPH, ENSI and the SFOE, as it also addressed security concerns within nuclear facilities. For the FOPH, this mission constituted a pivotal milestone within the Radiss 2020-2025 action plan, which endeavors to enhance the protection of high-activity radioactive material against potential threats such as theft and sabotage.

On 20 May 2024, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi presented the official report to Switzerland.

Mission outcomes

The experts were briefed by relevant authorities on the radiological security system, encompassing its legal underpinnings. They compared this framework with international regulations, guidelines, and IAEA requirements. Additionally, they scrutinized the application of these directives within select facilities. Spanning 12 days, this mission served as a follow-up to the 2018 review of safety measures at nuclear facilities, elucidating the FOPH's previous lack of direct involvement. Conversely, the FOPH assumed a direct role in this follow-up mission as the authorizing and supervising authority for radioactive materials, marking a significant institutional precedent.

Despite Switzerland's relatively recent inception of extensive security measures for high-activity radioactive materials commencing in 2018, the experts identified numerous good practices. They particularly lauded the comprehensive approach of the Radiss action plan, delineated across prevention, detection, and intervention. This plan has significantly curtailed the prevalence of dangerous high activity radioactive sources in Switzerland, thereby fostering a sustained reduction in risk.

For securing remaining sources, the FOPH has promulgated guidelines lauded for their clarity and efficacy in guiding license holders. Operationally, Radiss has fostered enhanced collaboration among federal authorities across all seven departments. Moreover, the introduction of RPS (Radiation Portal Switzerland) as a contemporary online database for all radioactive sources received commendation in the report for facilitating improved information exchange among authorities, cantonal police, license holders, and bolstering oversight over radioactive materials throughout their lifecycle, from utilization to disposal in Switzerland.

Recommendations and next steps

In addition to identifying commendable practices, recommendations for improvement were articulated. To perpetuate the favorable outcomes of the action plan over the long term, it was advised to review and refine the legal framework pertaining to the 'security' and 'safety' of radioactive materials, where necessary. This necessitates a continued adherence to the action plan's strategy, alongside advocating and fostering a 'safety culture' within both authorities and enterprises.

To instill this culture of safety across all echelons, it is imperative to raise awareness of potential threats. Consequently, the state should periodically evaluate threat landscapes and, as warranted, adapt security measures, in coordination with the Federal Intelligence Service. Switzerland should also expedite the finalization of the national emergency plan, accounting for incidents arising from malicious activities involving radioactive materials, such as deliberate irradiation with high-activity radioactive substances or the deployment of a dirty bomb.

These findings will be integrated into the interim report submitted to the Federal Council, thereby informing the subsequent phases of the Radiss action plan.

Last modification 22.05.2024

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