Call for innovation in nuclear power plant operation

19 June 2019

A 'Call to Action' for accelerating innovative solutions to sustain and advance the current operational fleet of nuclear power plants has been issued by the attendees of the Global Forum on Innovation for the Future of Nuclear Energy, held last week in Gyeongju, South Korea.

Innovations identified as needed to make the current nuclear power plant fleet more sustainable (Image: OECD-NEA)

The event - held 10-12 June - was co-organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Electric Power Research Institute, the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD-NEA) and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power. It was attended by over 250 nuclear industry leaders, regulators, researchers, government representatives and technology providers.

The primary aim of the event was to tackle the most urgent challenges facing the nuclear sector and examine barriers and opportunities for deploying innovative technological and process solutions to maintain or even enhance nuclear safety while reducing costs.

The participants identified 28 innovations on various aspects of operating the current fleet of nuclear power plants. The four most important were considered to be: digital twinning (the virtual recreation of a process into a computer-based model) to improve plant performance and to reduce costs; advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing, to address supply chain challenges; machine learning to make better use of the 'big data' already available in the nuclear power sector for optimising maintenance; and, using more innovative frameworks for information exchange, to share data on research and development, operations and maintenance.

The IAEA said the 'Call to Action' forms the basis of developing actionable items for deployment and implementation beyond the event itself.

"The nuclear industry is a vital part of the global energy mix, in particular to address climate change because it's a zero-carbon energy source," said EPRI Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Neil Wilmshurst. "This unique forum prioritised critical innovations needed in the nuclear industry, came to an understanding of the barriers and committed to working together to eliminate them."

"The effective support from the younger generation of nuclear professionals, working in tandem with management, is an inspiring sign that innovation will be driven by the combined dynamism and engagement of current and future leaders," said Ed Bradley, team leader for nuclear power plant operation and engineering support at the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy.

The event was the first of its kind between the co-organising institutions and was facilitated by meetings on innovation held in Vienna in 2018 and 2019. Similar forums are expected to take place in the future as platforms to share progress on actions, meet new challenges, strengthen collaborations and foster new partnerships.

The next forum, to be held n 2020, will be hosted in the UK by NNL.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News