At a time of renewed interest in nuclear power worldwide, it is becoming increasingly evident that the sector´s sustainable future cannot be based on current reactor designs alone. Innovations in technologies and institutional arrangements for nuclear energy systems, including reactor and fuel cycle facilities, are necessary for the growth of nuclear power. As such, international cooperation on initiatives such as the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) is crucial for the future of a global nuclear system.
"We continue to see growing interest in nuclear power and in many international initiatives," says IAEA Deputy Director General and INPRO Manager Yury Sokolov.
"INPRO provides a forum for discussion and cooperation of experts and policy makers from industrialized and developing countries on all aspects of sustainable nuclear energy planning, development and deployment. The objective is to help ensure that nuclear energy is available to contribute, in a sustainable manner, to meeting the energy needs of the 21st century."
INPRO recently passed a significant milestone with the development and application of a methodology that can help countries assess existing and future nuclear energy systems. This was demonstrated successfully through a series of national and joint assessment studies of innovative nuclear energy systems involving 11 countries: Argentina, Armenia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.
The INPRO methodology, which was developed with contributions from some 300 international experts, takes into consideration criteria such as proliferation resistance, safety, security, environmental acceptability, infrastructure, waste management and economic viability.
"The INPRO methodology is suitable for use by countries with established nuclear programmes, for example to assess the transition from a current fleet of reactors to a nuclear energy system with innovative technologies, as well as by so-called nuclear newcomers," says Akira Omoto, INPRO´s Project Coordinator and Director of the IAEA´s Division of Nuclear Power. More than 50 countries have expressed interest in considering nuclear power as part of their countries´ energy mix.
An action plan for 2010-11 was recently discussed by the INPRO Steering Committee, a body guiding the project that consists of representatives from INPRO´s 28 Member States. The plan focuses on four major programme areas:
- Nuclear Energy System Assessments: The IAEA will assist Member States in performing assessments using the INPRO methodology, in support of long-term strategic planning and decision making on nuclear energy deployment.
- Global Vision: The aim is to develop global and regional nuclear energy scenarios by a scientific-technical analysis that would lead to a global vision on sustainable nuclear energy development in the 21st century, and support Member States in working towards that vision.
- Innovations in Nuclear Technology: The IAEA will foster cooperation among INPRO Member States on selected innovative nuclear technologies that contribute to sustainable nuclear energy.
- Innovations in Institutional Arrangements: The IAEA will investigate and further cooperation on innovative institutional and legal arrangements for nuclear energy systems in the 21st century and support Member States in developing and implementing innovative arrangements.
In addition to the four programme areas, an INPRO Dialogue Forum that brings together technology users and holders to discuss and share information on topics of interest is to be launched.
INPRO was initiated in 2001 on the basis of a resolution by the IAEA General Conference.
Currently 28 countries are members of INPRO, with another eleven countries participating on a working level. INPRO, which is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions of its Member States, recently received an important confirmation and endorsement in the Russian Federation´s commitment to a five-year support of the project.