Representatives from countries thinking about using nuclear power are working on the thorny problem of developing a national nuclear infrastructure with the help of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Delegates from 47 countries are attending a three-day workshop on managing the development of a national infrastructure for nuclear power at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters. According to the agency, the workshop includes representatives from "almost 35" member states which are considering or are in the process of launching a nuclear power program, plus representatives of six countries which are home to major reactor vendors (Canada, France, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the USA). Some 60 countries worldwide that do not yet have nuclear power have expressed an interest in including it in their future energy plans.
Before it can launch a nuclear power program, a country needs to set up the necessary infrastructure to support it. Yuri Sokolov, IAEA deputy director general for nuclear energy, described nuclear energy infrastructure as "a system that provides legal, regulatory, technological, human and industrial support to ensure the effectiveness of the nuclear power program and ensure that obligations for safety, security and safeguards are met."
This includes establishing a professional regulatory regime, policies on nuclear waste management and decommissioning, and international non-proliferation and insurance arrangements. Then there are issues such as planning, financing and plant operation - and even if reactors are built and initially operated in conjunction with foreign companies, countries that are embarking on nuclear energy ventures also need to develop their own domestic supply of nuclear engineers and scientists.
Part of the IAEA workshop focuses on national strategies for human resource development, which the agency is planning to follow up with an international conference on human resources for development for introducing and expanding nuclear power programs to be held in Abu Dhabi in March.
The IAEA is committed to providing guaranteed independent and objective assessment and support to countries that are newcomers to nuclear energy under its recognition of the right of each country to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. The current meeting is the fourth such workshop to be held by the IAEA since 2006. As well as providing newcomer countries with the chance to discuss their nuclear infrastructure plans, including ways to integrate security and safeguards considerations into the design and planning for nuclear power, newcomer countries will also be able to put forward their needs to both the IAEA and nuclear plant vendors.
Although the IAEA does not list the countries participating in the workshop, nuclear is under consideration by countries in every region of the world. Major reactor vendor nations have long been keen to sign cooperation agreements with this potential customer base and to give special attention to the needs of countries embarking on nuclear for the first time. In this respect, cooperation for skills development and research towards potential future uses for process heat such as seawater desalination often feature in political and commercial agreements.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News