IAEA holds first SMR workshop

10 March 2016

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has held the first of a series of workshops to help regulators prepare for the global deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs).

Participants at the IAEA workshop (Image: O Lockyer/IAEA)

Participants from the Arab Atomic Energy Agency (AAEA) and Arab Network of Nuclear Regulators (ANNuR) took part in the workshop on safety and licensing requirements of SMRs, which was co-sponsored by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The workshop brought together regulatory authorities, operator companies, and other governmental organizations, working or expected to work towards the establishment of national safety and technical infrastructures for SMRs.

Workshop participants received detailed information about the role of regulatory authorities and licensing requirements, including the approval of SMR designs, siting and operations. The IAEA facilitated discussions among regulators on use of IAEA Safety Standards and on changes that may be needed in national regulations.

AAEA director general Abdelmajid Mahjoub, who chaired the workshop, said: "Small modular reactors are a very attractive proposition for the Arab world as more than half the countries in our region don't have the resources to build large, traditional nuclear power plants. SMRs are more feasible, manageable and require lower investment - it is a very realistic option for Arab countries to consider."

The same global safety and security standards that are applicable to existing nuclear power reactors as well as those under construction are mostly applicable to SMRs, but Greg Rzentkowski, director of the division of nuclear installation safety at the IAEA, said that regulatory certainty will be essential for their successful deployment. "We need to establish a set of clear and pragmatic requirements for safety and licensing," he said.

The IAEA will coordinate additional work in this area in coming years, which is likely to include the development of an overarching safety objective and a guidance document on establishing relevant requirements in accordance with facility type and size, Rzentkowski said.

The IAEA is also developing a technology roadmap for the deployment of SMRs - modular units built using pre-fabricated technology with an output of less than 300 MW - and is conducting a study on SMR development indicators in developing countries to assist member states in developing, assessing or deploying SMRs.

The next IAEA workshop on the safety and licensing requirements for SMRs is for members of the Forum of Nuclear Regulatory Bodies in Africa and will be held in June.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News