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IAEA Presents New Platform on Small Modular Reactors and Their Applications


In response to a request by Member States to address challenges and facilitate timely and coordinated deployment, the IAEA has established the IAEA Platform on Small Modular Reactors and their Applications. (Photo: F. Llukmani/IAEA)

The IAEA presented its newly established Platform on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and their Applications, aimed at supporting countries worldwide in the development and deployment of this emerging nuclear power technology, during an event on the margins of the of the 65th IAEA General Conference today.

With more than 70 SMR designs under development in 17 countries and the first SMR units already in operation in Russia, SMRs and their smaller cousins, microreactors (MRs), are forecast to play an increasingly important role in helping the global energy transition to net zero. Still, the technology, its safety and economic competitiveness must be demonstrated before SMRs can be more widely deployed, panellists agreed.

The IAEA’s new Platform on SMRs and their Applications will assist countries in addressing these and related challenges. Using as a reference the Nuclear Energy Series publication, Technology Roadmap for Small Modular Reactor Deployment, the Platform provides experts with a one-stop shop to access the IAEA’s full array of support and expertise on SMRs, from technology development and deployment (including non-electric applications) to nuclear safety, security and safeguards.

Today’s event, with both in-person and virtual attendance, provided national representatives and other stakeholders with an opportunity to learn more about this coordinated strategy and discuss ongoing SMR activities.

“High standards of nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation must be ensured for SMR deployment,” Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy said in his opening remarks. “But beyond this, it is generally recognized that if SMRs are going to be successful, they will need to be economically competitive with respect to other clean energy alternatives. Achieving that will require accelerating their technological development and readiness level.”

The IAEA has in place several activities related to SMRs to support its Member States through cooperation in SMR design, development and deployment and to serve as a hub for sharing SMR regulatory knowledge and experience. Although the IAEA safety standards can generally be applied to SMRs, global experts from the SMR Regulators’ Forum are working on a tailor-made solution to help national authorities regulate this new class of nuclear power reactors, which are expected to generate up to 300 megawatts (electrical) (MW(e)) of power depending on their design.

Read this article on the IAEA’s plans and position on SMR regulation and licensing.

Participants spoke about challenges facing SMR development and deployment and how the new Platform could be used to help countries address them.

“Potential topics for medium to long term activities include supply chain development, the development of industrial codes and standards, and suitable deployment strategies,” said Marco Ricotti, a professor of nuclear engineering at Italy’s Politecnico di Milano, who chairs the IAEA’s Technical Working Group for Small and Medium-sized or Modular Reactors (TWG-SMR).

“Based on discussions within the (SMR Regulators’) Forum and also within our own regulatory forums at work, we feel strongly that it is not realistic in the near term to develop detailed guidance for every technology,” said Marcel de Vos, who works on new reactor licensing at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. “The pragmatic approach in our view is that we need to work with what we have and make calculated improvements as experiences are gathered and gained.”

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, but we are working efficiently and in the right direction with Member States,” said Lydie Evrad, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Security.

“The Platform is a very powerful interdepartmental mechanism, bringing together expertise from across the organization on SMRs,” said Stefano Monti, Chair of the Platform Implementation Team and Head of the IAEA’s Nuclear Power Technology Development Section.

A recording of the event is available here, and presentations from the event are avaialable here.

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