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 Ministry of Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) is the 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. This competence will be transferred to the Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) on 1st January 2021.
- The Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK) is responsible for radiation protection, but not for radiation matters in the medical field and foodstuff. 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 Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection is responsible for radiation matters in the medical field and with regard to foodstuff.
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
Austrian operates one centralized Radioactive Waste Management Facility (Nuclear Engineering Seibersdorf – NES) for pre-disposal management and interim storage of all low- and intermediate level radioactive waste (LILW) originating from Austria in Seibersdorf. 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 [BGBl. I Nr. 50/2020] provides the legal framework for the protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation and for and the safe operation of research reactors in Austria.
- The General Radiation Protection Ordinance [BGBl. II Nr. 339/2020] stipulates more detailed legal requirements for radiation protection and nuclear safety.
- Interventions in emergency as well as in existing exposure situations are required by the Intervention Ordinance [BGBl. II Nr. 343/2020].
- The Medical Radiation Protection Ordinance [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 2020