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Expediting SMR Deployments: IAEA Holds 22nd INPRO Dialogue Forum


The 22nd INPRO Dialogue Forum was held from 6-10 May and attended by 174 participants from 31 countries and 8 technology vendors. (Photo: Korea Nuclear International Cooperation Foundation)

The potential of SMRs to figure prominently in the clean energy future was in focus at a key forum held in Korea last month.

At the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) Dialogue Forum in Jeju, Republic of Korea, participants shared their experience and discussed ways to facilitate the rapid development and deployment of SMRs.

Getting to net zero by 2050 will mean making the most of all low carbon energy sources, with many countries agreeing that nuclear power needs to play a major role in order to hit decarbonization targets on time. Nuclear power deployments must sharply increase in the coming decades to realize this goal, and though most new nuclear capacity will likely consist of large reactors, the unique features of SMRs could allow them to fill several niches in future energy systems. The small size of SMRs, which are generally designed to produce no more than 300 MW(e), could make them especially well-suited for deployment to remote areas and communities with relatively small electric grids. And the modular nature of their design could facilitate quick deployments and rapid scale up, with new industrial end users including energy-intensive data centres eyeing nuclear power to meet their growing electricity needs.  

“The world is looking forward to the deployment of SMRs to support economic prosperity while caring for our environment and helping countries to meet net zero carbon emission goals,” said Carolynn Scherer, Head of the IAEA’s INPRO Section. “The INPRO Dialogue Forum is a key platform for bringing together key stakeholders to discuss challenges and solutions for bringing closer to reality the deployment and operation of SMRs and other advanced reactors.”

Established in 2000, INPRO is a membership-based project (currently comprised of 43 countries and the European Commission) designed to provide support on long-term planning and collaboration on research to develop advanced reactors and fuel cycle technologies. INPRO aims to enhance the sustainability of nuclear power and maximize its contribution to meeting the world’s clean energy needs, including by offering a set of decision support tools for developing nuclear energy scenarios and conducting studies for formulating national nuclear energy strategies. The first INPRO Dialogue Forum was organized in 2010, and since then has covered topics including research trends and the need to enhance partnerships.

“The forum was a unique occasion to recognize the pivotal role of nuclear energy, especially SMRs, alongside renewables in tackling complex challenges such as the global climate crisis, surge in power demand, and energy security,” said Jun Ho Shin, President of the Korea Nuclear International Cooperation Foundation (KONICOF). “Discussions underscored the significance of international collaboration in regulatory harmonization as well as the importance of cost efficiency in driving the successful deployment of SMRs. Overall, the forum provided valuable insights and laid the groundwork for advancing SMRs and shaping a sustainable energy future."

This 22nd INPRO Dialogue Forum, held from 6-10 May and attended by 174 participants from 31 countries and 8 technology vendors, included plenary sessions and overviews of national activities in the SMR realm, with a technical tour of Jeju National University’s Institute for Nuclear Science and Technology taking place on the Forum’s final day.  

“This forum served as a critical platform for informative discussions on the development and sustainable deployment of SMRs, emphasizing innovation and collaborative approaches to foster global cooperation and knowledge sharing,” said Anushya Ramaswamy, a Foreign Affairs Specialist in the US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

Throughout the week, meeting participants discussed a number of hurdles to deploying SMRs and examined how these might be surmounted. Discussions considered how addressing the licensing and economic viability challenges specific to potential SMR markets is key to success and highlighted the importance of developing the relevant human resources. Promoting the harmonization and standardization of industrial and regulatory requirements could hasten SMR deployments, and strategic international cooperation at project outset was recognized as vital for sustainability.

Several embarking countries represented at the Forum, including Jordan, Poland and Vietnam, among others, have identified SMRs as a potential component of their clean energy mixes. “The INPRO Dialogue Forum was truly useful to me and our plan to apply a Nuclear Energy System Assessment (NESA) to examine the sustainability of potential future SMR deployments in Vietnam,” said Pham Nhu Viet Ha of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute (VINATOM). INPRO can provide training and guidance to IAEA Member States, upon request, on how to use the INPRO Methodology to perform a NESA. The INPRO Methodology covers six topical areas: environment, safety, proliferation resistance, waste management, infrastructure and economics.

The 23rd INPRO Dialogue Forum, set towards the end of 2024, will focus on nuclear energy innovations to support net zero transitions.

In the meantime, the International Centre for Theoretical Physics and the IAEA will host the third joint INPRO School on Strategic Planning for Sustainable Nuclear Energy Planning in Trieste, Italy from 8-19 July. The INPRO School aims to develop and strengthen the competencies needed for long-term strategic planning of sustainable nuclear energy systems at the national, regional and global levels by providing knowledge and practical experience on the INPRO analytical approaches, methods and tools for assessment and analysis of nuclear energy systems.

Last update: 05 Jun 2024

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