India joins multinational design group

05 April 2012

India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has become the 11th member of the Multinational Design Evaluation Program (MDEP), which pools resources of national regulators for reviewing new nuclear power reactor designs.

Administered by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), MDEP is a program through which national regulators are working to share technical data and standardize regulations and practices in order to avoid duplication of work. Participating in MDEP are Canada, China, Finland, France, Japan, South Africa, South Korea, Russia, the UK and the USA. The International Atomic Energy Agency also participates in portions of MDEP activities. A key concept throughout the work of MDEP is that national regulators retain sovereign authority for all licensing and regulatory decisions.

After "careful consideration of information provided by the AERB concerning its role and duties as well as India's nuclear regulatory framework," the AERB has now been accepted as the first new member in MDEP since it was established in 2006. The NEA said that it expects the AERB to "take an active part in the MDEP, notably in the Codes and Standards Working Group, the Digital Instrumentation and Control Working Group, the Vendor Inspection Co-operation Working Group and, eventually, one of the specific reactor design working groups." It added, "As a full member, it will contribute to the Program's strategic decisions in the MDEP Steering Technical Committee and the MDEP Policy Group."

"The membership will enable India to participate in the review of new reactor designs in the various working groups of the MDEP," R Bhattacharya, director of AERB's information and technical services division, was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper. "It will give us an opportunity to interact with other countries and gain from their experience of their design reviews of the new generation of reactors that we are likely to get."

India was largely excluded from international trade in nuclear plant or materials for over three decades because of its position outside comprehensive safeguards regime of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Special agreements ended the isolation in 2009 and the country may now engage in nuclear trade with Canada, France, Kazakhstan, Russia, the UK and USA. Foreign technology and fuel are expected to boost India's nuclear power plans considerably.

There are currently 20 power reactors in operation in India with a combined capacity of 4385 MWe net. A further seven units are under construction which will add a further 4890 MWe net of capacity once they are all completed by the end of 2016. Plans call for nuclear capacity to reach some 20 GWe by 2020 and 60 GWe by 2032.

While MDEP represents governmental efforts for harmonization in licensing new reactor designs, the World Nuclear Association, representing the global nuclear industry, established a working group in 2007 which has been compaigning for the harmonisation of safety regulations internationally and for making standardisation of reactor designs possible. Based on its initial work, the CORDEL (Cooperation in Reactor Design Evaluation and Licensing) group published a proposal for a three-phase process to achieve standardization, beginning with mutual acceptance by regulators of review data and ending with internationally valid design approval.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News