Developing countries that have taken decisions to start nuclear power in recent years are continuing with their plans. At a workshop in Vienna this week, they are sharing information on their experiences starting nuclear power programmes and incorporating the lessons learned from the accident in Japan in the planning process.
After the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan in March last year, interest declined in some countries that had been considering nuclear power. Others are taking a "wait and see" approach. But around thirty countries continue to consider nuclear power as a serious option in their energy mix because of their concerns about growing energy demands, dependence on fossil fuels, climate change and energy security.
"I believe that all Member States should have access to nuclear power if they wish to add it to their energy mix," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said. "While it is up to each country to decide whether they wish to opt for nuclear power, the IAEA has a key role to play in ensuring that the development of nuclear power programmes takes place in a safe, efficient, responsible and sustainable manner."
Some countries have taken concrete steps toward their first NPPs in the past year. For example, Belarus reported that it signed an agreement with Russia for its first NPP in October. Bangladesh and Vietnam have also signed Intergovernmental Agreements with Russia regarding nuclear power.
Though nuclear power's overall safety record is strong, the accident in Japan offers several lessons for countries introducing nuclear power, notably the importance of designing a power plant to withstand the most extreme hazards foreseeable at the plant's site and ensuring sufficient emergency preparedness and response capabilities. The IAEA is implementing a Nuclear Safety Action Plan which identifies 12 actions to improve global nuclear safety after Fukushima, including specific actions for countries starting nuclear power programmes.
"Safety must also be the watch word for Member States considering the introduction of nuclear power," IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stressed.
As part of the Action Plan, Member States are encouraged to develop an appropriate infrastructure to support the nuclear power programme. The IAEA issued a document on Milestones in the Introduction of a National Nuclear Power Programme in 2008 to guide Member States. The IAEA Milestones Approach assists nuclear newcomers with guideposts to mark progress during planning stages, to demonstrate to national and international stakeholders their commitment to nuclear safety and control of nuclear materials. The IAEA also provides standards, guidance, reviews and assessments, missions, and specific assistance as additional support for newcomer countries.
Building a new nuclear power infrastructure is a major undertaking that requires careful planning, preparation and a significant investment in time and resources. The infrastructure to support the successful introduction of nuclear power covers a wide range of issues, from the physical facilities for the delivery of electricity, the site and supporting facilities for handling radioactive waste, to the legal and regulatory framework to the human and financial resources necessary to implement the required activities. It entails attention to many complex and interrelated issues over a long duration - and a commitment of at least 100 years.
The IAEA supports new nuclear power programmes with international standards and guidance, peer review and advisory services, capacity building and training, and forums where experts can network and share their experiences.
The 6th Workshop on Topical Issues on Infrastructure Development, from 24-27 January 2011, is one such forum, providing a platform for the exchange of information in developing nuclear infrastructure between nuclear newcomer countries and recognized experts in the field.