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IAEA Marks a Decade of Integrated Support to Nuclear Newcomers

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Participants at the General Conference side event titled 'IAEA Support for Member States Embarking on Nuclear Power: 10 Years of the Milestones Approach and INIR Missions — Lessons Learned', Vienna, 19 September 2018. (Photo: F. Nassif/IAEA)

Without national commitment and strong leadership, competent institutions, legal and regulatory frameworks and a highly skilled workforce, it is difficult to implement a safe, secure, financially viable and sustainable nuclear power programme – this was the conclusion reached at a side event to the 62nd IAEA General Conference today.

The event marked a decade of integrated IAEA support for nuclear power infrastructure development to countries that have decided or are planning to include nuclear power to meet their energy needs.

“Today, about 30 Member States are preparing or considering new nuclear power programmes,” said Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. “The first two nuclear newcomer countries, Belarus and the United Arab Emirates, are getting close to operating their first nuclear power plants. Bangladesh and Turkey have started construction, while other countries are at different stages of programme development.”

At the same time, a few countries have postponed or put on hold their plans to introduce nuclear power, he added.

Representatives from Bangladesh, Belarus, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates presented the status of their national programme activities and shared their experience about IAEA support to their countries’ nuclear power infrastructure development.

The Milestones Approach

The event focused on lessons learned from implementing the Milestones Approach, a comprehensive guide for nuclear power programme development, and the related Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) service. INIR missions help Member States assess the status of their nuclear infrastructure and identify gaps that require further attention.

First issued in 2007 and revised in 2015, the IAEA Milestones Approach supports countries in creating an enabling environment for a successful nuclear power project and to understand, and prepare for, the associated commitments and obligations. This result-oriented approach comprises three phases (consider, prepare, construct), three milestones (decide, contract, commission) and 19 infrastructure issues to be addressed in each phase, such as nuclear safety, nuclear security, safeguards, legal and regulatory frameworks, radioactive waste management, human resource development and stakeholder involvement.

Over the past decade, the Milestones Approach has become a reference for Member States starting or expanding their nuclear power programmes. The Milestones Approach and supporting documents are widely used, and its framework and terminology have been broadly accepted.

INIR Missions

Based on the Milestones Approach, the IAEA launched the INIR missions in 2009 and has undertaken 26 such peer-review missions in 19 Member States.  In 2018, Niger, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates hosted INIR missions, and a further one is planned in the Philippines later this year.

To support countries that are in the final phase of the Milestones Approach, the IAEA has recently developed an INIR Phase 3 mission targeted at countries close to commissioning their first nuclear power plant.

“The INIR phase 3 mission to the United Arab Emirates, which our government hosted in June 2018, was the first of its kind, marking an important milestone for both sides,” said Ambassador Hamad Alkaabi, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the IAEA.

Belarus started its nuclear power programme to diversify its energy sources and meet an increasing demand for energy, said Vasili Paliukhovich, Head of the Department of Nuclear Power at the Ministry of Energy. Construction of the Ostrovets plant began in 2013 and commissioning of the first unit is expected in about two years. The country utilized a range of IAEA services to build the nuclear infrastructure and hosted an INIR Mission in 2012.

Vastly increased electricity production is a cornerstone of Bangladesh’s push for development, and nuclear energy will play a key role in this area, said Mohammad Shawkat Akbar, Project Director of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant. “Bangladesh has long had the dream of building its own nuclear power plant,” said Akbar. “The start of construction of Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant in 2017 was a step towards realizing this dream”.   

Akbar pointed out that the IAEA Milestones Approach has been adopted as a guiding document for his country’s nuclear infrastructure development. Bangladesh hosted INIR missions in 2011 and 2016.

Saudi Arabia, a leading global producer of crude oil, is seeking to increase and diversify its electricity production for continued economic growth and development. Last year, the Government announced its intention to add nuclear to the country’s energy mix. “Saudi Arabia is about to start the bidding process for the first nuclear power plant,” said Maher Alodan, Chief Atomic Energy Officer at the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy. He added that the INIR mission, conducted in July 2018, was timely and helpful to identify areas that need further development.  

Speaking about the global nuclear industry’s vision for the future of electricity, Jeremy Gordon, Advisor to the World Nuclear Association’s Harmony programme, pointed out: “We are working towards a level playing field that optimises low-carbon investment, the harmonization of nuclear regulation across borders, and an effective safety paradigm so that the benefits of nuclear technology for public wellbeing are better understood and valued when compared to other sources.”

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