Fuelling Innovation
Countries look to the next generation of nuclear power

by Judith Perera

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International Project: INPRO

INPRO was initiated in 2000 in a resolution adopted by IAEA Member States to ensure that nuclear energy will be available, as a sustainable resource, to help to fulfil energy needs in the 21st century. In order for nuclear energy to play a meaningful role in the global energy supply, innovative approaches will be required to address concerns about economic competitiveness, safety, waste and potential proliferation risks. Accordingly, INPRO takes a somewhat longer-term perspective than the other initiatives and is the only one which addresses the problems from the point of view of potential users in developing countries by identifying their specific needs. INPRO defines "users" as including a broad range of groups including investors, designers, plant operators, regulatory bodies, local organisations and authorities, national governments, NGOs and the media as well as end users of energy.

INPRO seeks to bring together all interested IAEA Member States, both technology holders and technology users, to consider jointly the international and national actions required to achieve desired innovations in nuclear reactors and fuel cycles. These should use sound and economically competitive technology based - as far as possible - on systems with inherent safety features that minimise the risk of proliferation and any impact on the environment. The aim is to create a process that involves all relevant stakeholders and that will have an impact on, draw from, and complement the activities of existing institutions, as well as ongoing initiatives at the national and international level.

The scope of INPRO covers nuclear reactors and fuel cycle facilities expected to come into operation in the future together with the associated fuel cycles. While INPRO considers a 50-year time scale for the necessary analysis, this does not mean that the technologies will be implemented during this time. However, a mixture of current, evolutionary, and innovative designs is expected to be brought into service and co-exist within this period. INPRO has not yet addressed any specific technologies.

In 2001-2003, under Phase 1A, INPRO produced sets of Basic Principles (BPs), User Requirements (URs) and Criteria to compare different concepts and approaches with respect to the key issues in the debate concerning the future role of nuclear energy - economic competitiveness, safety, waste, proliferation, security and physical protection, and sustainability. It not only focussed on technological requirements but also made recommendations on institutional, legal and various infrastructure issues, mainly in the context of the process of continuous globalisation. This phase ended in June 2003, having established a methodology and guidelines to assess different concepts and approaches.

Phase 1B, which began in July 2003, includes the validation of the INPRO methodology through case studies and examination of innovative nuclear energy technologies made available by Member States. This examination will be performed by members on the basis of BPs, URs, criteria and methodology established during Phase 1A. It will also include preliminary collection of information on innovative reactors and fuel cycles. Six INPRO Member States offered to carry out National Case Studies by applying the INPRO methodology to selected national INS:

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