Infrastructure Support for Member States
Interested in Nuclear Power

Milestones Approach

Documented in "Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power"
IAEA Nuclear Energy Series NG-G-3.1

In preparing the infrastructure to introduce nuclear power, there are several activities that need to be completed. These activities can be split into three progressive phases of development. The completion of the work at each of these phases is marked by a specific milestone at which the progress and success of the development effort can be evaluated and a decision made to move on to the next phase.

The three phases of development are:

  • Phase 1: Considerations before a decision to launch a nuclear power programme is taken
  • Phase 2: Preparatory work for the construction of a nuclear power plant after a policy decision has been taken
  • Phase 3: Activities to implement a first nuclear power plant

These corresponding milestones are:

  • Milestone 1: Ready to make a knowledgeable commitment to a nuclear programme
  • Milestone 2: Ready to invite bids for the first nuclear power plant
  • Milestone 3: Ready to commission and operate the first nuclear power plant

The IAEA Milestones Approach identifies 19 nuclear infrastructure issues that need to be considered for each milestone. These are:

National Position
Nuclear Safety
Funding and Financing
Legislative Framework
Regulatory Framework
Radiation Protection
Electrical Grid
Human Resource Development
Stakeholder Involvement
Site and Supporting Facilities
Environmental Protection
Emergency Planning
Security and Physical Protection
Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Radioactive Waste Management
Industrial Involvement


Nuclear Infrastructure Development

There are three major organizational entities typically involved in the development of a nuclear power programme: the government, the owner/ operator of the nuclear power plant and the regulatory body. Each has a specific role to play, with responsibilities changing as the programme advances (see Figure below).


It is usually assumed that the government will form a group to study and initially promote the development of the programme (called the "Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organization" - NEPIO). It should be noted that this designation is used here for illustrative purposes only. The government may organize the activity in a manner most appropriate to its own customs and needs. Similarly, the owner/ operator organization may be State owned, be part of a utility or be another commercial entity. The regulatory body is effectively independent from the owner/operator and other government agencies responsible for developing the nuclear programme, but may exist within the government.

Milestone 1

During milestone 1 the Member State will be in a position to make an informed decision on whether it is appropriate to introduce a nuclear power programme. In order to achieve this milestone, the Member State will not only have assessed that it needs additional energy and included nuclear power as a possible option to meet some of these needs, but will also have carried out the first phase of the programme, which involves the considerations and planning that occur before a firm decision is made to develop a nuclear power programme.

During this phase, the responsible organization is the government's nuclear energy programme implementing organization (NEPIO). The NEPIO should be appropriately staffed and resourced and include adequate expertise and experience. In the context of its national and socioeconomic development, the NEPIO should develop a clear understanding of the Member State's energy needs and the potential role, appropriateness and viability of nuclear power in its long term energy plan. Its report at the end of phase 1 should clearly show an understanding of the infrastructure that needs to be developed and demonstrate viable plans for its introduction, identifying resource requirements and timescales. It should include plans for the development of organizations to undertake the role of regulator, owner, operator and technical support. It is also essential that the plans address the development of an appropriate management system and a safety culture in each organization, and that these organizations recognize their responsibilities for ongoing safe operation. Preliminary discussions with potential nuclear programme vendors should be conducted to ascertain their interest in, and possible concerns or limitations for, participating in the development of a nuclear power programme.

Milestone 2

At milestone 2, the Member State will have the necessary infrastructure to invite formal bids for the first nuclear power plant and to supervise its construction. Following the policy decision to proceed with the development of a nuclear power programme, substantive work for achieving the necessary level of technical and institutional competence will have been undertaken and the necessary legal framework will be in place. An effectively independent regulatory body will have been developed to a level at which it can fulfil all of its oversight duties.

The owner/operator (or utility) will need to have developed the competence to manage a nuclear power plant project and to achieve the level of organizational and operational culture necessary to meet regulatory requirements. Additionally, it will have the ability to demonstrate that it is an adequately informed and effective customer.

Milestone 3

At this point, the Member State will be in a position to commission and operate the first nuclear power plant. The owner/operator will have developed from an organization capable of ordering a nuclear plant to an organization capable of accepting the responsibility for commissioning and operating one. This will require significant recruitment, development and training for all levels of staff and the demonstration that the owner/operator can manage the project throughout its life. While achieving milestone 3 is a major accomplishment, it should be remembered that it is only the beginning of a lasting commitment to the safe, secure and effective application of nuclear power.