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IAEA Training Course Helps Nuclear Newcomers in Site Selection for Nuclear Power Plants

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At a site visit to the Zwentendorf nuclear power plant in Austria, which never went into operation and today is used for training and demonstration purposes, participants got a good impression of the inside of a nuclear power plant and the site layout. 25 July 2019. (Photo: N. Kurova-Chernavina/IAEA)

 

An IAEA interregional training course has helped managers and decision makers from 18 Member States considering the introduction of nuclear power to gain a better understanding of the key issues that affect the selection of a suitable site for a new nuclear power plant (NPP).

The 29 participants attending the Interregional Training Course on Siting Nuclear Power Plants, held on 22–26 July 2019 in Vienna, Austria, came from nuclear energy programme implementing organizations (NEPIOs), regulatory bodies and owner/operators, where they are involved in national siting and site evaluation activities for their countries’ first nuclear power plants. The course agenda included lectures by IAEA and external experts, group exercises and country case studies from embarking countries.

“In developing a nuclear power programme, a wide range of issues and challenges need to be considered,” said Dohee Hahn, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Power. “The survey and selection of an appropriate site needs to begin early in the programme. It should be well planned and managed with due attention to safety, and to environmental, technical, economic and social factors.” He added that when the process is not properly planned and executed, it may result in major delays in the programme.

The IAEA has been assisting newcomer countries in the development of a new nuclear power programme for more than 10 years, through the three-phased IAEA Milestones Approach, a management guide for developing a sustainable nuclear power programme.

“Safety is an integral component in all nuclear infrastructure issues,” said Greg Rzentkowski, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety. “The roadmap for the gradual application of the relevant IAEA Safety Standards in accordance with the Milestones Approach helps Member States with establishing the safety infrastructure for a nuclear power programme”.

Siting is one of the 19 nuclear infrastructure issues of the Milestones Approach and plays an important role in the decision making process for a nuclear power programme. Selecting a suitable site for an NPP is a complex and multidisciplinary process. If not done appropriately, it can significantly affect cost, public acceptance and safety of the NPP during its life time, participants heard.

In numerous lectures and discussions, it was pointed out that the siting issue influences, or is influenced by, other nuclear infrastructure issues, e.g. environmental protection, stakeholder involvement, electrical grid, industrial involvement, management, and others. Also, the site selection must consider factors such as natural or human induced external events, characteristics of the site and its environment, population distribution, and feasibility of planning effective emergency response actions. Nuclear security as well as non-safety related factors need to be considered as well.

The interlinkages between siting an NPP and other infrastructure issues were of particular interest to the participants. “We realize that environmental protection and siting are closely related,” said Yvette Aggrey from the Siting Team of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission. “The site evaluation report and the environmental impact assessment report require cooperation between the individual teams, as we use the same data. None of the infrastructure issue stands alone, you have to work hand in hand.” She added that Ghana has identified several candidate sites and will undertake further analyses to identify a preferred one.

Emmanuel Wandera, Communication Specialist for the Siting Team in the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency of Kenya, added: “This training course is unique, because it is not looking at siting in isolation but linking it to other infrastructure issues, such as public and stakeholder engagement.” He added that Kenya has identified candidate sites in three regions and is addressing demographics, safety, security, safeguards, transportation to the sites and hydrology, among other factors. “This course will help me in developing plans and messages, especially with potential host communities, and I will share what I have learned with my colleagues at home.”

“Participating in this course has been beneficial because it has confirmed our approach, but also helped me to identify additional activities to support the site selection process,” said Monika Mejszelis from PGE EJ1’s, a subsidiary of the state-owned energy company PGE, set up to prepare and implement Poland's first NPP project. “The group exercises were very useful because they enabled us to share our experiences and learn about different views on the same issue.” Currently, Poland is considering two sites for a potential NPP.

The course included a visit to the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre, where participants learned about emergency preparations and response considerations in case of a nuclear incident, as well as a technical tour of Austria’s Zwentendorf nuclear power plant, built in the 1970s but never put into operation. It is now used for training and demonstration purposes.

The training course was conducted by the Department of Nuclear Energy, in cooperation with the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, under the IAEA technical cooperation mechanism as part of the project on ‘Supporting Knowledgeable Decision-making and Building Capacities to Start and Implement Nuclear Power Programmes’.

Other recent interregional training courses under this project were ‘Economic Aspects and Funding of New Nuclear Power Plants" in France, and ‘Licensing, Construction, Preparation and Oversight of New and Expanding Nuclear Power Programmes’ in the Republic of Korea.

This training course is unique, because it is not looking at siting in isolation but linking it to other infrastructure issues...I will share what I have learned with my colleagues at home.
Emmanuel Wandera, Nuclear Power and Energy Agency, Kenya

Twenty-nine participants from 18 Member States attended the Interregional Training Course on Siting Nuclear Power Plants from 22 to 26 July 2019 at the IAEA, Vienna, Austria. (Photo: E. Dyck/IAEA)

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