Calls for multinational licensing

13 November 2007

Speaking to journalists at the World Energy Congress in Rome on 12 November, Areva chair Anne Lauvergeon called for international coordination in the licensing of new nuclear power projects as a way to speed up the development of the nuclear industry.

"The licensing process is long. We are in a system where we have to re-license every time we want to develop a new project," said Lauvergeon. She said the need to restart every time was very costly and, "it would make sense to get a fast-track system."

The competitiveness of nuclear energy improves significantly with economies of scale, with the standardisation of reactor designs being a potential major driver in this in future. With a small number of manufacturers and a small number of designs, serialised construction of standard power plants would lead to faster construction times, cheaper power and enhanced safety for every country. Reducing financial risk in this way would be expected to lead to more positive decision-making by investors.

Lauvergeon's words come after other initiatives to internationalize reactor licensing. In 2005 the
Multinational Design Evaluation Programme (MDEP) was established, administered by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, through which national regulators are working to pool technical data and converge 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.

Dale Klein, the chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which itself chairs the MDEP Steering Group, told the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference on September: "By working together, we can provide clear, concise, and internationally accepted guidance to the designers and architects of these new facilities on safety and security requirements."

In the commercial nuclear industry, the World Nuclear Association has established the Cooperation in Reactor Design, Evaluation and Licensing Working Group (Cordel). It is comprised of representatives of power generators and reactor vendors and aims to stimulate dialogue between nuclear industry firms and national and international nuclear regulators. Its aim is to achieve a better convergence of safety standards globally for Generation-III and III+ reactors, while also laying the foundation for future Generation-IV reactors.

Cordel chair, Bob Brown of GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, said that while national regulatory authorities would retain sovereign responsibility for reactor licensing in their respective countries, some degree of harmonization in regulation could ensure the maximum gains offered by standardization to all parties involved.

Michael Micklinghoff of EOn, the vice-chair of Cordel, added: "We are convinced that international standardization of nuclear designs will lead to benefits in safety, economics, plant quality, predictability of deployment time and cost. This will also be reflected positively in the general public and political perception of nuclear energy."

Further information

WNA's Cooperation in the Nuclear Power Industry information paper

WNN: Westinghouse works to finalise AP1000