Nuclear Legislation of Ukraine: Harmonization with International Standards

Numerous laws, regulations and ordinances of the government, nuclear and radiation safety rules and standards regulate the safety of nuclear energy use. Their objective is to minimize the risk of accidents and damage from the ionizing radiation impact on people and the environment. Technological progress, accumulated positive and negative experience encourage countries to improve their regulatory framework, and this is the continuous process.

International organizations and associations summarize the best joint efforts, which are formalized afterwards in conventions, directives, standards and other official documents.

Countries that are concerned about safety of their nuclear industry and citizens are trying to keep up with the latest international requirements and practices in this area.

Ukraine is no exception. By developing new regulations, our state implements in their provisions standards bringing them closer to requirements and recommendations of international organizations Ukraine cooperates with. Moreover, while certain requirements are binding on Ukraine given the legal force of international agreements, we adhere to many standards on our own free will.

Firstly, Ukraine has ratified a number of international agreements: the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (1987), the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Installations (1993), the Convention on Nuclear Safety (1997) and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (2000).

These conventions have become a part of the national legislation, and therefore the state undertakes to comply with them and to harmonize its regulations on safety of nuclear energy with their requirements.

Secondly, the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement of 2014 also provided for an agreement with the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). Respectively, the Agreement sets out Ukraine’s commitment to comply with several Council of Europe/Euratom directives:

  • Council Directive 2006/117/Euratom on the Supervision and Control of Shipments of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel;
  • Council Directive 2011/70/Euratom Establishing a Community Framework for the Responsible and Safe Management of Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste;
  • Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom Laying down Basic Safety Standards for Protection against the Dangers Arising from Exposure to Ionizing Radiation;
  • Council Directive 2014/87/Euratom Establishing a Community Framework for the Nuclear Safety of Nuclear Installations.

Accordingly, the efforts to adapt Ukrainian legislation to the requirements of these four directives have been underway since 2014. The main scope of adaptation efforts is under responsibility of the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine (SNRIU).

“Before signing the Association Agreement in 2014, we also kept an eye at the European directives, because we understood that they are universal for all EU member states, and their provisions must also be taken into account. But that was not obligatory for us”, Anna Gorashchenkova, the Head of the SNRIU Department for International Cooperation and European Integration, said to

In 2014, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted a resolution approving the Action Plan for implementation of the Association Agreement and monitors its implementation.

“Now every two weeks we report to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on the progress of the Action Plan implementation, which includes adaptation of national legislation to the directives of the Council of Europe,” Ms. Goraschenkova added. – Four directives are within our jurisdiction. According to them, we amend the current legislation or develop new regulations, such as the Cabinet Resolution on the individual exposure doses system adopted in 2020.”

Head of the SNRIU Department on International Cooperation and European Integration Anna Gorashchenkova during a meeting with a delegation of the Norwegian Radiation Safety Authority on April 24, 2018 in Kyiv. Photo: SNRIU

Adaptation of the national level legislation to requirements of the EU regulatory framework is in line with the requirements of the Council/Euratom directives.

For example, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted the Law № 5550 “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine in the Field of Nuclear Energy Use” (5550) in 2019. The Law was developed by the SNRIU in pursuance of the Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom. Four laws of Ukraine have been amended:

  • “On Nuclear Energy Use and Radiation Safety”;
  • “On Authorizing Activity in the Field of Nuclear Energy Use”;
  • “On Human Protection against Impact of Ionizing radiation”;
  • “On Uranium Ore Mining and Milling”.

According to the SNRIU, the amendments introduced by the Law comply with the up-to-date radiation protection system of the EU countries.

As part of the Soviet Union, Ukraine signed (26 October 1956) and ratified (2 April 1957) the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Since then, as a member of the IAEA, our country participates in the programs of this organization and is focused on the IAEA safety standards in the field of nuclear and radiation safety.

Standards are developed by committees, which form the IAEA Commission on Safety Standards: the Transport Safety Standards Committee (TRANSSC); the Nuclear Safety Standards Committee (NUSSC); the Waste Safety Standards Committee (WASSC), etc., a separate committee for each type of activity.

The hierarchy of the Agency safety standards is as follows: the most important and most general is the document “Fundamental Safety Principles”, a lower level document is “General Safety Requirements”, which includes a number of parts related to regulatory legislation, emergency response, safety management, radiation protection standards, radioactive waste management, decommissioning of nuclear installations. The series is completed with the universal safety standards “Specific Safety Requirements” for the areas such as: designing and construction of nuclear power plants, maintenance of nuclear power plants, research reactors, radioactive material management etc.

Cover page of the IAEA document “Fundamental Safety Principles”

These are the fundamentals.

They are followed by dozens of “General Safety Guides”, each of which details the recommendations and procedures for ensuring safety of a specific activity in the field of nuclear energy use.

For example, the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine used the provisions of the General Safety Guide No. 7 (GSG-7) “Occupational Radiation Protection” as the basis under development of the Cabinet Resolution “On Approval of the Procedure for Establishing a Unified State System of Control and Accounting of Individual Occupational Exposure” (2020). “When we develop a draft Cabinet resolution or a law, we emphasize that a certain new requirement fully complies with the IAEA safety standards or EU directives”, said Anna Gorashchenkova.

However, as for the IAEA safety standards, according to her, Ukraine adapts its regulatory framework to them rather on its own free will. After all, these standards are not part of the international law and have no legal force. Moreover, no law or government act stipulates Ukraine’s obligations to incorporate their provisions into its regulatory framework. Although, if the IAEA statute already has the signature of Ukraine, it can be regarded as a willingness to implement all the recommendations of this organization.

“If all member states come together after important international events or accidents (like Chornobyl or Fukushima), analyze all standards, update and strengthen them, – says Ms. Goraschenkova, – then doing nothing on our part would be a bad practice”.

Therefore, the basic laws of Ukraine on nuclear energy use, adopted in the 90-s (“On Nuclear Energy Use”, “On Authorizing Activity”, “On Radwaste Management”, etc.), are based on the IAEA safety standards in force at that time.

“At that time, there were no EU (Euratom) directives. When they appeared in 2011-2014, the basic legislation of Ukraine was already drawn up. Only certain peculiarities were not taken into account, such as establishment of a database of individual exposure doses. These are already modern trends, so we are catching up”, explains Gorashchenkova.

As for the state system of accounting and control of individual occupational exposure doses, the draft government resolution on its establishment has been amended several times to take into account the latest international regulations and standards. These are, firstly, the international standards for national accounting and control systems contained in the Council Directive 2013/59/EURATOM (5 December 2013), the IAEA International Safety Standard “Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources” (2014), as well as the aforementioned general safety guide for radiation protection under occupational exposure. Finally, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted a resolution on establishment of an individual dosimetry monitoring system in November 2020.

Although there is no such direct requirement in our national legislation, the IAEA ensures that countries use documents developed jointly by the international community. By the way, Ukraine is involved in their development as well.

Every three years, the IAEA Safety Standards Committees update their membership composition with experts from the member countries. The SNRIU, being the authority responsible for cooperation with the IAEA, nominates experts willing to contribute to the development or revision of international safety standards and requirements on behalf of Ukraine.

In addition to the SNRIU, the Ministry of Energy also has the authority to communicate with the IAEA on behalf of Ukraine. However, according to the legislation, neither the SNRIU nor the Ministry of Energy have specific functions for monitoring implementation of the IAEA safety standards, and there is no consolidated system for their implementation. Each authority concerned with the IAEA standards (the regulator, operators, medical institutions, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine) independently takes care of their implementation in national legislation and in its own rules and standards.

The IAEA expert mission dealing with characterization of the irradiated graphite and procedures of determination of waste forms at ChNPP in the framework of the national IAEA cooperation project, 27-31 May 2019. Photo by SAEZM

The first thing they the IAEA missions do visiting Ukraine on the invitation of the government to check a specific area (nuclear energy, radiation medicine), is the check the compliance of our legislation with the IAEA standards. Therefore, in preparation for any IAEA visit, Ukraine conducts a self-assessment of compliance the legislation in force with each standard of the Agency.

Another model the SNRIU focuses on in development of regulations is the reference levels of the Association of Western European Nuclear Regulators (WENRA). WENRA is the credible organization bringing together nuclear and radiation safety regulatory bodies of the EU countries and associate member-countries. Its current purpose is to develop unified standards for NRS regulation in member-countries. Regulatory documents containing technical requirements for these standards are called reference levels.

“In fact, these are the regulatory documents that most fully describe the algorithm of a regulator’s functions. Reference levels do not have the status of EU legislation, since this association has no governmental status in the European Union. – says Anna Gorahschenkova. – However, a country that joins WENRA undertakes to bring its regulatory documents (regulations, orders) in line with the reference levels.”

Ukraine, represented by the SNRIU, participates in WENRA plenary sessions and meetings of working groups, first as an observer (since 2009), and since 2015 as a full member. We became the first non-EU country to be admitted to the Association.

Ms. Goraschenkova says that even before the official admission to WENRA, Ukraine started analyzing its regulatory framework and regulations for compliance with the reactor safety reference levels, looking for gaps and weaknesses in regulations. The Ukrainian regulator followed the criteria and methodology set forth in the document “WENRA. Harmonization of Reactor Safety in WENRA Countries. January 2006”. A peer review of the self-assessment was carried out by representatives of the nuclear safety regulators of Bulgaria, Finland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

WENRA member-countries (marked in orange). Source:

On 11 November 2014, the “Schedule for Harmonization of Requirements of Ukrainian Regulatory Documents on Decommissioning with Reference Safety Levels of the Association of Western European Nuclear Regulators WENRA” was approved by the SNRIU Order No. 174. In particular, this document covered reference safety levels in terms of radwaste management taken into account under development of new regulations on radwaste disposal and for radwaste management before disposal.

After acquiring the full membership status of WENRA, the SNRIU identified harmonization of national regulatory requirements for nuclear and radiation safety with WENRA reference levels of as one of the priority areas of its activity.

But then again, since participation in the WENRA is voluntary, accounting WENRA reference levels is a voluntary commitment of Ukraine and all member-states.

However, the practice of using reference levels is supported by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) attached to the European Commission. ENSREG calls for using reference levels in its activities not only by all EU member-states, but also by countries planning to join or otherwise interact with the European Union. ENSREG relies on WENRA as its technical support and encourages countries to use all WENRA technical documents.

Ukraine, in this case as well, voluntarily participated in the ENSREG initiative to conduct comprehensive NPP safety and risk assessments (“stress-tests”). We signed the relevant declaration in 2011. The idea was to check whether European nuclear power plants were able to prevent accidents in conditions similar to the Fukushima in view of the Fukushima-1 accident in Japan.

The requirements and procedures of the “stress-tests” were developed by WENRA experts and agreed by the European Commission and ENSREG. After having conducted its stress tests, Ukraine submitted to ENSREG the National Report by the end of 2011, and peer reviews of stress tests continued during 2012. In June 2013, the SNRIU presented the National Action Plan of Ukraine based on the results of stress tests and peer reviews.

“We were provided with recommendations that became the basis for development of a national Action Plan and measures based on the results of stress-tests. Respective measures were included in the “Comprehensive (Integrated) Safety Improvement Program for Nuclear Power Plants” (C(I)SIP). This program of the Ukrainian NPP units safety improvement includes post-Fukushima measures based on the stress-tests results”, – Anna Goraschenkova describes the results of the initiative.

The National Action Plan is updated every few years. The current revision is in force since July 2020.

ENSREG: The First Thematic Peer Review. National Ageing Management Action Plan (in Ukrainian). Please press the link to view the document

The developers of the General Safety Provisions for Decommissioning of Nuclear Facilities, which came into force on 15 January 2021, followed WENRA recommendations. The reference levels for decommissioning are based on official IAEA standards, namely: “Decommissioning of Facilities Using Radioactive Material”, “Decommissioning of Nuclear Power Plants and Research Reactors” and “Safety Assessment for the Decommissioning of Facilities Using Radioactive Material”.

Harmonization of Ukrainian legislation with international legislation and standards is not an easy process. “Some innovations can be implemented not only in the form of a government decree or a regulatory document, but also may require amendments in several laws at the same time. Some innovations may lead to complete revising of laws”, explains Anna Gorashchenkova.

Moreover, introduction of international standards into the regulatory framework in one area may lead to their violation in another. This was the case, for example, when in 2016 the State Regulatory Service initiated adoption of the Law “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Basic Principles of State Supervision (Control) in the Field of Economic Activity” to implement the EU Directive on reducing pressure on business and creating a single supervisory body. According to the idea, the objective of the Law was more than favorable for the Ukrainian economy, but at the same time, it had a negative impact on nuclear energy use.

The Law deprived the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of its independence in making regulatory decisions on issuing permits and conducting inspections. However, according to Goraschenkova, this already contradicted both IAEA safety standards and EU directives regarding state supervision in the field of nuclear and radiation safety.

Council Directive 2014/87/Euratom establishing a Community framework for nuclear safety of nuclear installations requires availability of “a powerful competent regulatory authority, effectively independent in elaboration and adoption of regulatory decisions”.

Accordingly, on 19 May 2020, the Parliament of Ukraine had to adopt a new Law No. 2372 “On Amendments to Certain Laws of Ukraine on Safety of Nuclear Energy Use”, which returned to the SNRIU its inherent functions.

In addition, any amendment to regulations relating to the state policy are doomed to bureaucratic red tape between various authorities, which, to agree on the document, require introducing their amendments. “Each ministry involved in agreement of a draft document has its own opinion, its own part of the legislation, compliance with which they check, Ms. Goraschenkova explains. “And it may happen that when the Ministry of Justice makes amendments, the final version everyone agreed upon, does not meet requirements of European legislation. Then we start rolling back the amendments again trying to find other arguments”.

According to her, it is not uncommon for an agreed revision of a regulatory document to come into force, being very different from the initial draft document drafted under the influence of an EU directive or international standard:

“We had many projects supported by the European Commission, in the framework of which we developed regulations (draft laws or resolutions). But the documents were not approved at the final stage of projects, they were finally approved after years in a completely different revision than the one agreed by European experts”.

Therefore, harmonization of legislation in the field of nuclear energy use is a long and continuous process.

A number of documents are currently being developed or agreed with different authorities. For instance, the document “Basic Radiation Safety Rules for Radiation Sources”, developed in 2019 by the SNRIU and SSTC NRS with the support of the Norwegian Radiation Protection Agency is aimed to improve radiation safety requirements for radiation sources use in accordance with IAEA standards and Council Directive 2013/59/Euratom.

Draft orders on approval regulations that are included in the rule-making plan of the authority can also be found on the SNRIU website. They give evidence that, for example, the draft order “On Approval of the General Safety Requirements for Arrangement and Operation of Equipment and Piping of Nuclear Power Plants” (2020) was developed to harmonize national rules and standards on nuclear and radiation safety with the updated WENRA reference levels for operating reactors “WENRA Safety Reference Levels for Existing Reactors” (2014) and International IAEA Safety Standards “Safety of Nuclear Power Plants: Design. Specific Safety Requirements”. IAEA Safety Standards Series, № SSR-2/1 (Rev. 1); “Safety of Nuclear Power Plants: Commissioning and Operation. Specific Safety Requirements”. IAEA Safety Standards Series, № SSR2/2 (Rev. 1)”).

And the Rules for Safe Transport of Radioactive Materials (PBPRM-2020), approved and registered in the Ministry of Justice in December 2020, take into account provisions of the latest publication of the IAEA document “Regulations for the Safe Transport of Radioactive Material. 2018 Edition. Specific Safety Requirements SSR-6 (Rev. 1). IAEA”

Thus, Ukraine endeavors to bring national legislation in the field of nuclear energy use in line with international safety standards and EU legislation. We have a powerful nuclear industry, and a sad experience of the Chornobyl catastrophe – this encourages us to take the most careful approach to safety of activity concerned with the radiation exposure focusing on advanced standards recognized by the international community. Therefore, in this regard Ukrainian not only fulfills its commitments to foreign partners, but also does most of the work on a voluntary basis. Editorial Board.