Looking decades ahead, the Steering Committee of the IAEA´s International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) met in Vienna at the Agency headquarters this week to approve a two-year action plan that will serve to address the need for sustainable and affordable energy technologies.
Worldwide primary energy demand is growing, and can only be appropriately met through technological and institutional innovations, as well as a holistic understanding of each energy source´s total costs, environmental impact, supply security and societal acceptance. "The objective of INPRO is to foster innovation so that nuclear energy can make a significant contribution to meeting this demand in a sustainable manner," stated Mr. Jong Kyun Park, Director of the Division of Nuclear Power and INPRO Policy Coordinator.
"INRPO can fill a unique niche in contributing to the development of a vision and possible scenarios for global and regional nuclear power development," said Mr. Yury Sokolov, IAEA Deputy Director General, Department of Nuclear Energy, and INPRO Project Manager at the meeting.
Sharpening the focus on how nuclear energy can contribute to long-term sustainable development is the aim of an INPRO study Global Scenarios and Regional Trends of Nuclear Energy Development in the 21st Century presented at the meeting. Using scientific-technical analysis to develop global and regional nuclear energy scenarios and identify the role of technological innovations in reactors and fuel cycle methods, the study illustrates interregional links in industrial capacity and resources including uranium, as well as flows of nuclear fuel and other nuclear materials between regions to support the global growth of nuclear energy. "Nuclear energy has the potential to make a large contribution to primary energy generation in the future; it is a proven low-C02 technology which is already competitive and could substantially increase available energy to be used for electricity and process heat. It provides a base load and can therefore serve as the stabilizing factor in an energy mix combined with a share of renewables," said Mr. Karl-Fredrik Nilsson of the European Community (EC), one of sixteen experts from nine INPRO Member States who contributed to the study which will be concluded at the end of this year.
Speaking to the INPRO Steering Committee, Mr. Sokolov also highlighted other activities over the past year, including progress in several collaborative projects between INPRO Members that investigate technological and institutional innovations. One recently launched project examines the environmental impact of innovative nuclear energy systems and will develop a benchmark of assessment methodologies to rank radionuclides concerning their impact on human health. Experts from the IAEA Laboratories in Seibersdorf are cooperating with INPRO and Member States in this collaborative activity.
The Nuclear Energy System Assessment (NESA) using the INPRO Methodology received further funding after its successful test and application in several IAEA Member States. "The NESA approach is suitable for both countries with existing nuclear power systems and newcomer countries. A NESA can contribute to developing a long-term and strategic national position," remarks Mr. Sokolov. "In particular, it assists Member States in ultimately designing national sustainable nuclear energy systems," he stated. Recently Belarus has initiated an assessment of its planned nuclear energy system, and several other countries have indicated their interest in performing a NESA using the INPRO methodology.
INPRO is also cooperating with other international initiatives, including the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), which is an international forum collaborating on the research and design of a new generation of safe, economically competitive and proliferation resistant nuclear reactors that consume less uranium and produce less radioactive waste. "GIF will be looking to continue, and increase, cooperation with other international activities such as INPRO," says Mr. Harold McFarlane of GIF. "Areas such as safety, non- proliferation, economics, fuel cycle implications of GIF systems, small and medium sized reactors, and thorium utilization are areas of potential collaboration." The next joint meeting between INPRO and GIF is planned in early spring 2010.
The INPRO action plan for 2010-2011 focuses on five major programme areas: Nuclear Energy System Assessments using the INPRO methodology; Global Vision, Scenarios and Pathways to Sustainable Nuclear Development; Innovations in Nuclear Technology; Innovations in Institutional Arrangements; and the INPRO Dialogue Forum on Nuclear Energy Innovations. The first meeting of the Dialogue Forum, which brings together technology users and holders to discuss and share information on topics related to innovations in nuclear energy is scheduled for 1-4 February 2010.
The approved action plan including new activities for INPRO reinforces INPRO´s role as a multilateral body that is discussing nuclear energy innovation through a comprehensive scientific and technological understanding of the institutional, legal, sociological, environmental and economic factors that will determine the success of nuclear energy development.
The International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) was established in 2000 to help ensure that nuclear energy can meet the energy needs of the 21st century. At present, 30 IAEA Member States (including Algeria, Italy and Kazakhstan who joined in 2009) and the European Commission comprise the INPRO membership, while a further ten countries participate on a working level. The countries represent 75% of the world´s GDP and 65% of the world population.
INPRO brings together nuclear technology holders and users to jointly consider international and national actions that would result in the required innovations in nuclear reactors, fuel cycles or institutional approaches. In addition, INPRO plays an important and unique role in helping its Members better understand the national, regional and global implications of future nuclear energy systems´ development. To support that development, INRPO looks decades ahead and plays a key role in fostering innovation in technologies and institutional infrastructure.