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IAEA’s INPRO Fosters Innovations for Sustainable Nuclear Energy

Russia’s BN-800 sodium cooled fast reactor at the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant served as reference technology for an INPRO sustainability assessment of the BN-1200 fast reactor design. (Photo: Rosenergoatom)

Looking years ahead, the steering committee of a major IAEA project charted the course for the next few years to assist Member States in the development of sustainable nuclear energy systems (NES) and related innovations.

The governing body of the IAEA’s International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) met in Vienna to discuss the Project’s strategic directions to 2023 and endorsed its programme plan for the next two years.

INPRO’s current activities – to be continued in the next biennium – provide practical support to Member States by focusing on four main tasks: developing global and regional nuclear energy scenarios; investigating innovative nuclear energy technologies and institutional arrangements; assisting countries in sustainability assessments of nuclear energy systems and developing long term national nuclear energy strategies using the INPRO methodology; and providing a communication and discussion platform for technology holders and users on these issues through the INPRO Dialogue Forum.

Speaking to the INPRO Steering Committee, Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy highlighted achievements over the past year. “Considering the issues of climate change and the Paris Agreement, an INPRO Dialogue Forum in June 2017 focused on the potential of nuclear energy to support the sustainable development goals, including climate change mitigation,” he said. “It has led to concept development activities within my Department to provide a related service to Member States.”

Mr Chudakov also mentioned INPRO sustainability assessments of three sodium fast reactor designs, conducted by experts from China, India and Russia. “These assessments were very helpful to confirm the utility of the INPRO methodology for these innovative reactor designs.”

The INPRO methodology uses a holistic approach to assess the sustainability of an NES. It includes all elements of the system, i.e. the reactor and the entire fuel cycle from ‘cradle to grave’, as well as infrastructure and institutional considerations such as legal frameworks, the electricity grid, industrial capacity and human resources.

“The INPRO methodology, by definition, includes both innovative designs of nuclear facilities that represent a radical departure from existing plants, and evolutionary designs, such as those that evolve from existing, operating plants,” explained Jon Phillips, Head of the INPRO Section at the Department of Nuclear Energy.

Thirty-six representatives from INPRO Member States and two international organizations — the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) and the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC) — attended the 26th INPRO Steering Committee, held 13-15 November 2017 at the IAEA. Twenty-three countries presented recent national developments and their contributions to INPRO’s studies and collaborative projects.

 “Since INPRO includes members with a lot of experience in nuclear, and other members that are embarking on a new nuclear power programme, we had to find the right balance for future activities,” said Didier De Bruyn from the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK • CEN, who chaired the INPRO Steering Committee. Speaking in his role as a Belgian representative, De Bruyn highlighted the INPRO Dialogue Forum as an activity of particular interest for his country.

Commenting on the forthcoming biennial plan, Phillips added that INPRO’s studies, analyses, collaborative projects and assessments consider many issues that determine nuclear energy system sustainability. These issues include proliferation risks, affordability of nuclear energy, health and environmental risk including depletion of national resources, nuclear accident risks, radioactive waste disposal, adequate national and international institutions and public acceptability.

A main activity in both the new biennial plan and the strategic plan is a new service that will provide Member States with a complete set of tools to build sustainable nuclear energy planning capacity.

“This activity received broad support from the INPRO Steering Committee,” said Dohee Hahn, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Power. “INPRO will develop and pilot a new service based on the tools developed over the last several years under the ‘Global Scenarios’ Task.” The results of several successful INPRO collaborative projects will be combined into a practical offer of service to Member States. This new set will include training on the application of software tools developed within INPRO, lectures, exercises and documents and consulting on NES modelling, comparative evaluation of NES options and road mapping the path of sustainable development of NES.

“Providing practical services to Member States is a priority for the IAEA and so we judge this to be a significant and strategic move.”

About INPRO

Established in 2000 by an IAEA General Conference resolution, INPRO is a membership-based project that supports its currently 41 member countries and the European Commission in their long term planning and collaboration on innovations in reactors, fuel cycles and institutional approaches to promote the sustainable development of nuclear energy. The INPRO Steering Committee meets annually to review progress and provide guidance on future activities.

Since INPRO includes members with a lot of experience in nuclear, and other members that are embarking on a new nuclear power programme, we had to find the right balance for future activities.
Didier De Bruyn, Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK • CEN, Chairperson of the 26th INPRO Steering Committee Meeting

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