Nuclear regulatory authority
In Austria, the legislative and executive powers are divided between the federal state and the provinces. On the federal level, the regulatory responsibilities are allocated by the Radiation Protection Act as follows:
- The Federal Minister for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) is the competent regulatory authority for the TRIGA Mark-II Research Reactor and accelerators at the universities, as well as a small number of X-ray facilities and sources in connection with the reactor or the accelerators. The BMK is responsible for the protection of people and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation, except for radiation matters in the medical field and foodstuff, military applications, et.al. The BMK is also the regulatory authority for issues relating to the management of radioactive waste, including the siting, construction and operation of storage facilities. Finally, the BMK is responsible for general affairs of nuclear co-ordination.
- The Federal Minister of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection is responsible for radiation protection matters in the medical field and with regard to foodstuff.
- In principle, the Head of the Federal Provinces is the competent licensing and inspection authority for all other practices.
In 1978, the Austrian electorate decided in a referendum not to start the operation of the constructed nuclear power plant in Zwentendorf. Immediately thereafter, nuclear power was banned by a simple law. In 1999, the Austrian parliament passed unanimously the Constitutional Law on a Nuclear-free Austria. It stipulates, inter alia, that installations which serve for energy generation by nuclear power must not be constructed, nor, if they already exist, come on line. Austria has one research reactor facility (TRIGA Mark II, owned by the Technical University of Vienna) in operation, which is a nuclear installation as defined in the Euratom Nuclear Safety Directive.
Radioactive waste and spent fuel management
Nuclear Engineering Seibersdorf (NES) operates the centralized Radioactive Waste Management Facility in Seibersdorf for pre-disposal management of all low- and intermediate level radioactive waste (LILW) originating from Austria. High-level radioactive waste (HLW) does not arise. The waste originates primarily from applications in medicine, research, industry and ongoing decommissioning projects. There is no disposal facility for radioactive waste in operation.
The fuel used in the TRIGA Mark II reactor constitutes a loan from the US Department of Energy (DoE) as stipulated in a treaty between the Technical University of Vienna, Euratom and the US DoE. These fuel elements are to be returned back to the USA.
Main legal instruments
The main legal instruments are the following:
- Constitutional Law on a Nuclear-free Austria [BGBl. I No. 149/1999].
- The Radiation Protection Act 2020 [BGBl. I Nr. 50/2020] provides the legal framework for the protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation, radioactive waste management and for the safe operation of research reactors in Austria.
- The General Radiation Protection Ordinance 2020 [BGBl. II Nr. 339/2020] stipulates more detailed legal requirements for radiation protection, radioactive waste management and nuclear safety.
- Interventions in emergency as well as in existing exposure situations are required by the Intervention Ordinance 2020 [BGBl. II Nr. 343/2020].
- The Radon Protection Ordinance, [BGBl. II Nr. 470/2020] establishes the framework for measures to protect people from the dangers of radon.
- The Radioactive Waste Shipments Ordinance, [BGBl II Nr. 41/2009, last revised with BGBl. II Nr. 331/2020 establishes the procedures for the approval of shipments between Member States and to/from third countries.
- The Medical Radiation Protection Ordinance [BGBl. II Nr. 375/2017, last revised with BGBl. II Nr. 353/2020] regulates in more detail the protection of individuals against harm resulting from ionizing radiation in medicine.
Last updated in August 2021