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Nuclear Power Programmes: Role of National Leadership Emphasized

Meeting participants share experiences and best practices in the development of the necessary infrastructure for nuclear power at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Ensuring effective coordination among all organizations involved is vitally important for Governments introducing nuclear power, agreed participants at an IAEA meeting last week. 

At the annual Technical Meeting on Topical Issues in Infrastructure Development held from 31 January–3 February 2017 in Vienna, nearly 80 experts from 29 Member States came together to share experiences and lessons learned in the development of the necessary infrastructure for nuclear power.

Coming predominantly from countries interested in expanding their nuclear power programmes or introducing nuclear power into their national energy mix, participants discussed the challenges in prioritizing and sequencing the necessary activities and focused on the IAEA Milestones Approach, which provides an internationally accepted method to implement nuclear power programmes. Participants found that countries both embarking on and expanding their programmes face similar challenges, requiring a systematic process for safely building new reactors.

“Embarking on a nuclear power programme is a major undertaking requiring long-term commitment and dedicated effort,” said Milko Kovachev, Head of the IAEA Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section. “As this meeting discussed, governments must create an enabling environment for the introduction of nuclear power, and regulatory bodies and operating organizations must be competent to oversee and manage project activities for a nuclear power programme to be successful.”

Need for a coordinating mechanism

Participants emphasized the importance of setting up a nuclear energy programme implementing organization (NEPIO) to coordinate the work of all players involved in nuclear power infrastructure development. A NEPIO can help prepare decision makers in a country to make an informed decision regarding nuclear power and to coordinate infrastructure development efforts among various implementing organizations.

Collins Juma, Chief Executive Officer of Kenya’s Nuclear Electricity Board, said that through establishing its NEPIO, Kenya was able to evaluate its commitment to leadership and management systems that would ensure nuclear safety and security. “We developed a comprehensive self-evaluation report which has been reviewed by the IAEA, and we received invaluable feedback,” he said.  

The IAEA encourages newcomers to nuclear power to develop programme roadmaps, even in the consideration phase. These roadmaps would include notional schedules and timelines for developing the national infrastructure for nuclear power and for implementing the first nuclear power project. The IAEA provides comments and feedback on such documents.

IAEA support

The IAEA’s Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions help Member States carry out in-depth evaluations of their infrastructure for nuclear power programmes and facilitate sound decision-making.

Through experience gathered from nearly eight years of INIR missions, the IAEA has identified common challenges faced by Member States.

“For Malaysia, as a newcomer country to a nuclear power programme, the INIR mission was a crucial step in moving forward with the establishment of an appropriate national nuclear infrastructure,” said Jamal Ibrahim, Director of Nuclear Power Programme Development, Malaysia Nuclear Power Corporation. “We received impartial feedback from an international team of experts, which strengthened our confidence and enabled knowledgeable decision-making.” Malaysia is targeting 2030 for its first nuclear power plant, should the Government take a positive decision to proceed with the programme.

At the annual forum, which also facilitates the development of IAEA guidance documents and publications, several documents published in 2016 as part of the IAEA Nuclear Energy Series were presented:

  • Evaluation of the Status of National Nuclear Infrastructure Development” (NG-T-3.2 (Rev.1);
  • “Building a National Position for a New Nuclear Power Programme” (NG-T-3.14), and
  • “Industrial Involvement to support a National Nuclear Power Programme” (NG-T-3.4)

A revised version of the guidance document, “Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review Missions: Guidelines on Preparing and Conducting INIR Missions”, will be published soon.

The IAEA has also published a new brochure for senior policymakers in countries considering introducing nuclear power. Available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish, the Introducing Nuclear Power: The Role of National Leadership brochure complements the Agency’s main guidance document Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power.

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