Jan Haverkamp, vice-chair of NTW, senior expert nuclear energy and energy policy at WISE
3 February 2020
The Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water informed Parliament on 17 January that the responsibility for the preparation of nuclear policies will be taken away from the nuclear regulator ANVS (Authority Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection) and moved to a new department at the Ministry.
This followed an intensive evaluation period at the Authority, assessing its first years of functioning after the Netherlands established a specialised and organisationally independent nuclear regulatory body. In the evaluation, it was found that the double mandate – independent nuclear oversight and policy support – was not optimal. Nuclear Transparency Watch and its Dutch members WISE and LAKA on several occasions in the Netherlands and during the bi-annual ENSREG conferences criticised the double-mandate set-up as potentially leading to conflict of interest. They expressed among others their concern that while answering parliamentary questions, the Minister was flanked not by her civil servants, but by officials from ANVS, giving the impression that it was ANVS who was making and defending nuclear policy instead of keeping an independent oversight over it.
Jan Haverkamp, vice-chair of NTW and senior expert nuclear energy and energy policy at WISE, commented: “When the Authority would co-author policies that later could appear to lead to some form of nuclear risk, its regulatory function could be impaired by a sense of loyalty to the policies it helped develop. We have seen this leading to sub-optimal situations in authorities throughout Europe, and, indeed, for example in the situation around the (international) legal need for an environmental impact assessment and public participation concerning environmental questions for the lifetime extension of the Dutch Borssele nuclear plant. We are happy that ANVS took the criticism on board. A clear separation of regulatory functions from nuclear related policy-making is a large step forwards towards a truly independent regulatory environment. We very much welcome this decision.”
In a reaction paper, ANVS notes the IAEA IRSS mission advised to bundle as much as possible the rather limited knowledge and skills on nuclear safety and radiation protection within the state governance structures. It therefore will have to find the best way in which its expertise can remain available also for other parts of the state structure that need that, without interference into its regulatory independence.