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Best Practices, Roadmaps and Safety Guidance for Countries Embarking on SMR Deployment: IAEA Training Course Concludes


A rendering of Oklo Inc.’s Aurora powerhouse, an advanced SMR design. (Photo: Oklo)

Enhancing the understanding of the physics and thermodynamics underpinning the integral pressurized water reactor (iPWR), one of many small modular reactor designs currently in development by several countries, was the topic in focus at an IAEA interregional training course this month in Vienna, Austria. Twenty-five experts from 16 countries gathered at the IAEA’s headquarters from 5 to 8 July, to learn more about nuclear reactivity control, thermodynamics, reactor stability and control in steady states and in dynamic situations, technology designs and safety systems of SMRs.

By providing affordable and flexible low carbon electricity and heat generation, small (or medium-sized) modular reactors (SMRs) have the potential to make a significant contribution to the achievement of global climate goals, while simultaneously enhancing energy security in the communities they serve.

According to the IAEA’s Advanced Reactors Information System (ARIS) database, close to 50 different SMR designs are in various stages of development by 18 countries. In response to the growing interest in SMR development, the IAEA training course presented the integral pressurized water reactor (iPWR) simulator, the first such simulator of its kind, which illustrates in real-time the functioning of an iPWR SMR under normal, accident and severe accident conditions.

“Climate change is one of our biggest common challenges today, but nuclear power can contribute to the mitigation of climate change by supplying reliable, low carbon energy precisely where it’s needed,” said Eve-Kulli Kala, IAEA Director of the Technical Cooperation Division for Europe. “The deployment of SMRs is growing rapidly and, to support countries that are exploring their potential, the IAEA is helping national experts to understand the methodologies, roadmaps and best practices associated with the development of small modular reactors.”

More than 25 experts from 16 countries participate in the four-day training course to better understand the theoretical principles and practical deployment of small modular reactors. (Photo: IAEA)

The training course was part of an ongoing, interregional technical cooperation project[1] launched in 2022 to provide broad support to countries embarking on SMR deployment. Participants used educational simulators  to apply the various concepts in real-time to a virtual reactor, enabling them to better understand how SMRs operate under normal and abnormal conditions and to familiarize themselves with the design and function of key safety systems.

“In Ghana, we practice using simulated reactors operating under normal conditions, but during the course, we were tasked with simulating a variety of scenarios, which provided us with a strong overview of the integrity of small modular reactors,” said course participant Felix Ameyaw, from the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC). “What made the hands-on training so practical and educative was that we were given adequate training with the simulator, prior to the hands-on exercises, allowing us to develop the skills needed to train others back home.”

The training course included a series of lectures, classroom discussions and practical and hands-on group exercises using the IAEA’s iPWR educational simulator.

“Designing a hands-on training course is always challenging,” said IAEA Nuclear Power Project Officer Chirayu Batra, who provided technical guidance for the training course. “On one hand, it’s necessary to introduce users to the features and characteristics of a new tool; and on the other hand, it’s important to ensure that the fundamentals of physics are appropriately covered. The IAEA educational simulators are very intuitive and interactive, and therefore help in delivering on both of these needs.”

“This training course comes at the time at which there is an increasing interest in SMRs and their applications by many countries and in new international initiatives in the field,” added Aline Des Cloizeaux, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Power. “It is an important first step to assist countries in developing a basic understanding of operational principles of a small modular reactor.”

The IAEA this year launched a Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI), which aims to accelerate the safe and effective deployment of SMRs by bringing together policy makers, regulators, designers, vendors and operators to develop common regulatory and industrial approaches. In addition, and the Agency is developing a Medium-Term Strategy on SMRs, as well as a booklet on SMRs designed to address the needs of energy policy-makers and relevant key government stakeholder.

[1] INT2023, ‘Supporting Member States’ Capacity Building on Small Modular Reactors and Micro-reactors and their Technology and Applications as a Contribution of Nuclear Power to the Mitigation of Climate Change’

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