Countries eyeing nuclear power for electricity generation for the first time face a challenging road before they reach safe and efficient power production. Over three days in July, representatives from 45 countries - nuclear power vendors, regulators, operators and "newcomers" to the world of nuclear power - reviewed their roles and responsibilities. The main message: lay the foundation for long-term nuclear safety first.
"The focus was on good practices and lessons learned about the roles and responsibilities of nuclear power vendor countries and newcomers for long-term safety," said André-Claude Lacoste, Chairman of the Nuclear Safety Authority in France and chair of the IAEA workshop. "Many elements are needed to build up and maintain a good infrastructure for nuclear safety, and the workshop helped put the spotlight on them." Such elements, he noted, include establishing a nuclear legal framework; nuclear regulations and an independent regulatory body to enforce them; a corps of skilled technical expertise; and a system that enables public participation.
The workshop attracted more than 100 participants from 45 countries, especially "nuclear newcomers" - namely representatives from countries looking to launch nuclear power programmes. Sessions featured topics such as the "ins and outs" of selling and buying nuclear reactors on the global market. The main message focused on national responsibilities, those of the vendor and the buyer countries.
- For vendor countries, alongside technical and business responsibilities, there are moral responsibilities when transferring their technology, participants were told. Toward that end, vendor companies could work more closely with their governments to set up agreements that promote nuclear safety in countries seeking to buy their nuclear technology.
- For buyer countries, they should endorse international treaties and conventions, and educate themselves to become "intelligent customers" seeking long-term safety cooperation packages. Such packages should cover reactor design, construction, technical translation, training, technical assistance, human capacity building, maintenance and operational know-how, experience feedback, and establishment of the governmental, legislative and regulatory infrastructure.
Participants heard that laying the foundation for a safe and sound nuclear project takes expertise and time - up to 15 years - before the plant starts to produce electricity. That factor should be taken into account when framing national strategies for launching nuclear power.
Sessions emphasized that nuclear safety is a national responsibility and that systematic use of tailored IAEA services - notably reviews of the governmental and nuclear regulatory regime and of plant designs, construction and operation - should help countries significantly.
The workshop - entitled Roles and Responsibilities of Vendor Countries and Countries Embarking on Nuclear Power Programmes to Ensure Long-Term Safety - was organized by the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety. Additional workshops are planned in line with national interests for safely developing the nuclear power option.
The IAEA has issued a number of technical reports and documents on the importance of a nuclear power infrastructure. They include Considerations to Launch a Nuclear Power Programme published in 2007. Regarding nuclear safety, a number of documents are in draft stages; they include Governmental and Regulatory Framework for Safety (DS-415); Licensing Process for Nuclear Installations (DS-416) and Establishment of a National Nuclear Installation Safety Infrastructure (DS-424).