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IAEA INPRO Dialogue Forum Focuses on Sustainable Supply Chains for Advanced Nuclear Power Systems

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Construction works at Kursk Nuclear Power Plant, Russian Federation, April 2018. (Photo: Rosenergoatom)

Experts from 31 IAEA Member States and three international organizations came together in Vienna this month to discuss good practices and common challenges in nuclear supply chains at a Dialogue Forum organized by the IAEA’s International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO).

Representing technology holders and users, the Member State participants and experts from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Nuclear Energy Agency, the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform and the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation, discussed the national, regional and global situation of nuclear supply chains.

“A reliable, robust and sustainable nuclear supply chain is an integral and vital part of the global nuclear energy industry system,” said Dohee Hahn, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Power, at the Forum held from 2 to 4 July 2018. “This would provide quality assurance for safety in the operation and maintenance of operating reactors and also help ensure the successful completion of construction of new nuclear power projects in time and within budget.”

The participants highlighted common supply chain challenges including the shortage of skilled engineers, reductions of manufacturing capacity in some countries, effects of shortened product life cycles such as rapid advances in information technology, and increasing globalization of the supply chain.

They identified key issues and discussed proactive methods to avoid procurement-related events, such as the discovery of counterfeit or substandard items, which have in the past led to temporary shutdowns of reactors or delays in granting operation licences.

They also shared good practices and lessons learned on programmes that are relevant to sustainable nuclear supply chains and to localization, which refers to the involvement of local industries in the supply of good and services.

Juergen Kupitz, a nuclear technology expert from Germany who chaired the Forum, emphasized that establishing a nuclear supply chain and involving national or local industries is a costly and long-term process. “The process should be started long before a nuclear power plant is ordered,” he said. “Particularly nuclear newcomer countries should build their supply chains gradually, starting with non-nuclear graded components, structures and services.”

Localization of the nuclear supply chain

In most technology holder countries, the localization of well-established nuclear supply chains has been introduced following a step-by-step approach, the meeting heard. Today, supply chains are based on global cooperation and contributions of several internationally networked suppliers of products and services.

“Many countries tend to put great emphasis on localization of the supply chain,” said Hahn. “This helps them to maximize the social and economic benefits of a nuclear power project through the expanded uses of national and local resources.”

At the Forum several technology user countries reported strong efforts towards planning nuclear supply chains well in advance of ordering a nuclear power plant. To identify potential national or local industries that could contribute services and products, Member States are reviewing the industries’ qualifications carefully, in line with the applicable regulations, codes and standards.

The participants agreed that intensive interactions between suppliers and customers will be necessary for training of local contributors, paving the way for future transfer of technology. These would need to be carried out taking related risks into account, they emphasized, adding that international organizations, including the IAEA, can provide an overall umbrella for information exchange, cooperative research, databases, standards and guides and expert services.

They also agreed that it is essential to disseminate good practices and lessons learned with respect to procurement and supply chain issues among owner and operator organizations, regulatory bodies, suppliers, auditors and other stakeholders in the nuclear industry.

INPRO Dialogue Forum

Since 2000, the IAEA’s International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) has organized a series of Dialogue Forums that address key issues on sustainable development of nuclear power systems and the related complex relationships of technology suppliers, technology users and other stakeholders.

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