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Extending the Operational Life Span of Nuclear Plants

IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Energy, Yury Sokolov addressing the opening session of the symposium. (Photo Credit: IAEA)

With proper management, vigilance and safety enhancements, nuclear power plants can operate beyond their typical design lifespan of 30-40 years. A major international symposium organised by the IAEA in Shanghai 15-18 October is discussing world experiences in effectively managing nuclear power plants beyond their initial design lives.

Extending the operational life span of nuclear power plants is commonly referred to in the industry plant life management or PLiM. This has been gaining increased attention over the past decade from regulators and operators alike, who considers a PLiM programme as an effective tool to safely and cost effectively manage ageing effects in systems, structures, and componenets. PLiM helps to facilitate decisions concerning when and how to repair, replace or modify SSCs in an economically optimized way, while assuring that a high level of safety is maintained.

In his address to the symposium, IAEA Deputy Director General for Nuclear Energy Yury Sokolov stressed the importance and need for such effective plant life management.

"This is especially important as the world's fleet of 439 nuclear power plants has been operating, on average, for more than 20 years," he said. "Even though the design life of a nuclear power plant is typically for 30 or 40 years, it is quite feasible that many nuclear power plants will be able to operate in excess of their design lives," he added.

The symposium, organized by the IAEA, in cooperation with China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), will focus on topical issues affecting nuclear power PLiM. Some 35 countries and 5 international organizations are being represented in the four-day event which will also emphasize the role of PLiM programmes in assuring safe and reliable nuclear power plant operation. In particular, the symposium will aim to:

  • Provide a forum for information exchange on national and international policies, regulatory practices and safety culture;
  • Demonstrate effective strategies, including applications in an ageing management and PLiM programme;
  • Provide key elements and good practices related to the safety aspects of ageing, ageing management and long term operation;
  • Identify the progress made in ageing management and PLiM processes since the first international symposium; and
  • Help Member States further develop their PLiM programmes based on the latest technology available.

The Shanghai symposium is the second major international meeting the IAEA has organized in the area of nuclear power plant life management, the first being held in Budapest, Hungary, in 2002. In that symposium, participants, appreciating the value of the event in fostering information exchange, recommended that another symposium be organized over the next four to five years.

Since then, an increasing number of operators and regulators have started looking at the option of extending nuclear power plant operation, as shown by the growing number of licence renewal programmes that are being developed by Member States.

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Last update: 27 Jul 2017

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