Coordinated approach needed for nuclear programs

08 February 2017

Forward-planning is essential for countries wishing to introduce or expand nuclear power programs, participants at an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meeting heard last week. Ensuring effective coordination among all organisations involved is important, they agreed.

The IAEA held its annual Technical Meeting on Topical Issues in Infrastructure Development in Vienna between 31 January and 3 February. It was attended by almost 80 participants, predominantly from countries interested in expanding their nuclear power programs or introducing nuclear power to their national energy mix.

The participants discussed the challenges in prioritizing and sequencing the necessary activities and focused on the IAEA Milestone Approach. This, the IAEA said, "provides an internationally accepted method to implement nuclear power programs." The meeting found that countries both embarking on and expanding their programs face similar challenges, requiring a "systematic process for safely building new reactors".

Establishing a nuclear energy program implementing organisation at an early stage is vital in order to coordinate the work of all players involved in nuclear power infrastructure development, participants agreed. Such an organisation, they said, can help prepare decision makers in a country to make an informed decision regarding nuclear power and to coordinate infrastructure development efforts among various implementing organisations.

The head of the IAEA's nuclear infrastructure development section, Milko Kovachev, said: "Embarking on a nuclear power program is a major undertaking requiring long-term commitment and dedicated effort. As this meeting discussed, governments must create an enabling environment for the introduction of nuclear power, and regulatory bodies and operating organisations must be competent to oversee and manage project activities for a nuclear power program to be successful."

The IAEA encourages countries looking at nuclear power to develop program roadmaps, including the consideration phase. These roadmaps, it says, would include national schedules and timelines for developing the required infrastructure. The IAEA provides feedback on such documents, as well as offering Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions to member states to carry out in-depth evaluations of their nuclear power program infrastructure and decision-making.

Jamal Ibrahim, director of nuclear power program development at Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation, said: "For Malaysia, as a newcomer country to a nuclear power program, the INIR mission was a crucial step in moving forward with the establishment of an appropriate national nuclear infrastructure. We received impartial feedback from an international team of experts, which strengthened our confidence and enabled knowledgeable decision-making."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News