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IAEA Virtual Training Helps Countries Develop a National Position for a New Nuclear Power Programme

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The UAE's first nuclear power plant, the Barakah NPP, began generating electricity in August 2020. (Photo: ENEC)

Establishing a national position on nuclear power is a crucial element for countries embarking on a new nuclear power programme. During a first-of-a-kind IAEA training course, organized online this week in cooperation with Electricite de France (EDF), 21 participants from 15 countries learned about economic and financing aspects to consider when developing such a national position and reviewed lessons learned from countries that operate nuclear power plants.

A national position provides a foundation for the future development and implementation of a nuclear power programme. It clarifies whether and why nuclear power fits in the context of national priorities such as long-term energy planning, self-sufficiency and carbon emission reduction. “To make an informed decision on whether to embark on a nuclear power programme, countries need comprehensive and credible information on nuclear power, including cost/benefit, funding and financing as well as environmental issues,” said Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. “These training courses are part of a systematic approach to nuclear power infrastructure competence building to increase awareness and understanding of the Milestones Approach.”

The course was part of an IAEA technical cooperation project known as the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Training (INIT) programme. INIT is an initiative designed to support countries in making a knowledgeable decision on whether to introduce nuclear energy and in capacity building to develop the necessary competencies for a safe, secure and sustainable nuclear power programme. This initiative, established in 2016, provides training through courses, scientific visits, workshops and fellowships.

The three-day training course featured IAEA and international experts as well as speakers from organizations including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD-NEA) and the European Nuclear Safety Training and Tutoring Institute (ENSTTI). Participants learned about the numerous considerations involved in establishing a national position, including how a national energy policy might be updated to include nuclear power and the importance of stakeholder involvement at local, regional and international levels. They also heard about the construction and financing elements involved in implementing a nuclear power programme.

“The main objective of this training course is to give participants the ability to understand and analyse various aspects of the  economics of a nuclear power programme,” said Anne Lazar Sury, Director of International Relations at the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). “It aims at presenting a broad picture of the main aspects that will have to be integrated in the early phases in order to allow for informed decisions and successfully implement this type of project.”

The INIT project has been adapted to meet current challenges, particularly international travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. INIT trainings, beginning with this week’s course, will each cover a specific topic in a virtual format followed by a practical, in-person training to take place in the future.

“We wanted to ensure that this community of future decision makers could continue exchanging knowledge on how to build a national nuclear power programme and the best way to define the criteria for a decision on a nuclear power programme,” said Vakis Ramany, Senior Vice President for Nuclear Development at EDF. “We therefore decided to innovate and organize three short online sessions over three days to give a brief overview of what participants can expect next year when the physical training course will take place.”

Some 30 countries are currently considering or embarking on nuclear power, including Ethiopia, which aims at developing a nuclear power programme.

“This course is very useful for us as we train staff members within our National Nuclear Technology Task Force, particularly in helping us establish a clear approach for implementation of a nuclear power programme,” said Ashabir Tesfaye, a nuclear engineer at Ethiopia’s Ministry of Innovation and Technology. “I look forward to the knowledge and skills that we will gain during the in-person training next year.”

The in-person component of the training is planned for 2021. The course was supported with funding from CEA and implemented through the IAEA technical cooperation programme.  

Milestones Approach

Established as guidance in 2007 through an IAEA Nuclear Energy Series publication 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.   

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