Nuclear energy experts from 38 countries met in Salt Lake City, Utah to discuss ways to safely and cost-effectively extend the life of many of the world's operating nuclear power plants. The group was also exploring how existing reactors can effectively deal with increased safety expectations in a post-Fukushima world.
The venue is the 3rd International Conference on Nuclear Power Plant Life Management (PLiM) for Long Term Operations held from 14 to 18 May 2012 at the Hilton Salt Lake City Center. The Conference was organized by the IAEA, and hosted by the U.S. Government through its Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy in cooperation with the European Commission, and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency. Over 350 participants representing 38 Member States and 3 international organizations attended this Conference. A tour of the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls was also part of the Conference agenda.
The IAEA periodically organizes international conferences on plant life management (PLiM). The previous two PLiM conferences were held in November 2002 in Budapest, Hungary, and in October 2007 in Shanghai, China. This year's Conference was larger than the previous two, indicating the growing importance of this area, especially after the severe accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Energy, Alexander Bychkov, and Idaho Governor, Butch Otter, were among the invited speakers to the conference.
In his statement, Mr. Bychkov emphasized the need to urgently respond to public anxiety caused by the accident with seriousness and professionalism, while maintaining a firm long-term commitment to continuously improving and strengthening nuclear safety.
"I expect that this Conference brings together researchers, designers, engineers, utility representatives, manufacturers and regulators from around the world to share information on technical issues that can lead to safe and reliable long-term operation of nuclear power plants," he said.
"Building and maintaining public trust and confidence is central to the future of nuclear energy," Idaho Governor Butch Otter said in his opening statement.
"We need to deal with these difficult and challenging issues in a way that the public can embrace and we need more of that in public policy - people who can effectively combine their passion with what's practical," he added.
Echo of this technical Conference has extended into the political realm. In the US Senate, a draft resolution was presented on 17 May 2012 commending the IAEA for organizing the 3rd International Conference on Nuclear Power Plant Life Management for the first time in the United States. The resolution also encouraged IAEA Member States to take advantage of the latest available technology to further develop licensing programs, promote safety, and secure the long-term success of commercial nuclear power generation.
According to the IAEA Power Reactor Information System (PRIS), there are currently 436 commercial nuclear power reactors operating worldwide, providing about 13% of the world's electricity. Another 62 plants are under construction.