Protecting persons,
property and the environment
Protecting persons,
property and the environment

Table of Contents

Regulatory Framework


The NNR’s Regulatory Framework consists of legally binding requirements by International Safety Conventions, laws passed by Parliament that govern the regulation of South Africa’s nuclear industry, regulations, authorisations, conditions of authorisations, requirements and guidance documents that the NNR uses to regulate the industry. Requirements are developed in conjunction with the applicable authorised action and effectively covers all the relevant requirements on the holder.

The NNR enforces these requirements on all applicants and authorisation holders. Certain requirements in the legislation are prescriptive to the extent that no further elaboration is necessary. Other requirements are broad in nature.

The NNR establishes additional requirements based on international best practices. These requirements are registered either directly in the authorisations or in “Requirements Documents”.

The following provides the basis for the NNR’s Regulatory Practices;

  1. The NNR exercise regulatory control related to safety through the issuance of nuclear authorisations.
  2. Nuclear installations as defined in the Act can only be sited, constructed, operated and decommissioned under a Nuclear Installation Licence.
  3. Nuclear Vessels either propelled by nuclear power or carrying radioactive material on board and sojourning or entering the South African territorial waters can only do so under a Nuclear Vessel Licence.
  4. Other actions with the potential of causing nuclear damaged are authorized either by a Certificate of Registration or a Certificate of Exemption.
  5. In dealing with NORM related applications, exclusion and exemption criteria are established.
  6. The removal of radioactive materials or radioactive objects within authorised actions from further regulatory control is based on defined clearance criteria. The clearance criteria specify either the alpha, beta or gamma activity levels and will not be higher than the exemption levels specified.
  7. Nuclear authorisations are subject to conditions and compliance therewith has to be assured and enforced.
  8. Furthermore, the NNR will define appropriate steps to be taken by relevant government institutions and advise the Minister of DoE of any exposure scenario where the provisions of the Act apply that is deemed not amenable to regulatory control.

The NNR Safety Standards are premised on international standards such as the IAEA Safety Standards, the UK NII Safety Principles and the WENRA Reference levels.  The safety standards provides the principal safety criteria relating to risk criteria, and dose limits for normal operating conditions, applicable to members of the public and workers.

The safety standards further lay down principal radiation and nuclear safety requirements which are applied to all nuclear installations and other regulated actions, and include the following:

  1. Defence-in-depth
  2. ALARA
  3. Good engineering practice
  4. Quality management
  5. Accident management and Emergency Preparedness
  6. Safety Culture.
  7. Graded approach

The radiological dose and risk limits for the public and workers relate directly to the objectives of nuclear and radiation safety, and are therefore considered the most fundamental yardsticks against which to assess nuclear safety, contributing towards a more consistent and transparent basis for regulatory decision making.  The dose limits are consistent with the IAEA Basic Safety Standards.  Basic principles underlying the risk criteria are as follows:

  • The risks presented by a nuclear plant must not increase significantly the total population risk.
  • The nuclear risks must compare favorably with those associated with other major industrial enterprises.
  • Allowance must be made for a possible increase in the standards of safety demanded by society over the period – usually several decades – represented by the working life of the plant.

The following general nuclear and radiation safety principles underpin and form the basis of the NNR Safety Standards:

  1. The independence of the NNR is entrenched in the Act and ensures that regulatory decisions are made and regulatory enforcement actions taken, without pressure from interests that may conflict with safety. The credibility of the NNR as a regulator is assured through its independence from the organizations it regulates and the promoters of nuclear technology. The NNR retains its independence as a safety authority and is protected from undue pressure.
  2. The NNR protects people and the environment from nuclear damage through the implementation of safety standards that defines clear quantitative criteria for exclusion, exemption, clearance and authorization.
  3. The prime responsibility for safety rest with the person or organization responsible for facilities and activities that give rise to potential nuclear damage.
  4. The operator of a nuclear installation is strictly liable for compensation associated with nuclear damage.  The NNR will advise the Minister on the potential quantum of claims that has to be made provision for by nuclear authorization holders.
  5. Effective leadership and management for safety has to be established and sustained in organisations concerned with, and facilities and activities that give rise to, potential nuclear damage.
  6. Protection has to be optimized to provide the highest level of radiation protection and nuclear safety that can reasonably be achieved (ALARA).
  7. All practical efforts has to be made to prevent and mitigate nuclear or radiation accidents.
  8. Arrangements have to be made where warranted for emergency preparedness and response in case of nuclear or radiation incidents.
  9. People and the environment, present and future, must be protected against radiation risks.
  10. The authorisation holder must demonstrate effective understanding of the hazards and their control for an action or facility through a comprehensive and systematic process of safety assessment. The safety assessment has to incorporate both deterministic and probabilistic approaches where appropriate.
  11. Safety assessments that are conducted must also take into account the impact of non-radiological hazards on safety in order to ensure the protection of people and the environment.
  12. Nuclear and Radiation Safety has an overriding priority in all authorised actions and has to be based on a written safety policy in support of a sound safety culture.
  13. Nuclear Safety and Radiation protection is approached within the precepts of transparency whilst Nuclear Security is approached in accordance to confidentiality.
  14. Organisations involved in the lifecycle of a nuclear facility or activity have to be staffed with competent managers and sufficient qualified personnel having a proper awareness of the technical and administrative requirements for safety and motivated to be safety conscious.


The nuclear sector in South Africa is governed by the Nuclear Energy Act 1999, Act 46 of 1999, the National Radioactive Waste Disposal Institute Act, Act 53 of 2008 and the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) Act 1999, Act 47 of 1999. These Acts are administered by the Department of Energy.

Other legislation of relevance to the nuclear industry are the Hazardous Substances Act, the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction Act, the Patent Act, the National Strategic Intelligence Act, the National Key Points Act, the Protection of Constitutional Democracy Against Terrorist and Related Activities Act, the Mine Health and Safety Act, the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act, the National Environmental Management Act, the National Water Act and the Dumping at Sea Control Act.

Regulations & Government Notices

Guidance Documents & Position Papers


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