Commitment, sustainability, and co-operation: these were the buzzwords at the opening session of the first workshop of the INPRO Dialogue Forum on Nuclear Energy Innovations that kicked off on 1 February in Vienna.
INPRO, short for International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles, is an IAEA initiative that looks at the future of nuclear power and connects countries possessing nuclear technology know-how, countries expanding their nuclear energy programs, and countries that are newcomers to the field.
IAEA Deputy Director General for the Department Nuclear Energy and INPRO Project Manager, Yuri Sokolov, opened the Forum. "Nuclear energy has become a leading option in a world that has to meet ever-increasing energy needs while facing the strong initiative to reduce CO2 emissions and dependence on dwindling fossil fuels," he said.
Including nuclear power in a country´s energy programme, however, means commitment.
"What countries are looking at is a commitment of at least 100 years," says Randy Beatty, INPRO Group Leader from the IAEA´s Department of Nuclear Energy.
"That means the nuclear energy option has to be sustainable," he adds.
But is nuclear power a viable and sustainable option for every country? That is another aspect that INPRO looks at in cooperation with the IAEA´s Planning and Economic Studies Section (PESS).
"We provide tools that allow a country to assess if nuclear power can indeed be a part of its energy supply," says Ahmed Jalal, a senior energy and nuclear power planner in PESS.
Countries opting to include nuclear power need to look at more than just the economics. What is the state of the available infrastructure, what technological innovations can be adopted, how can nuclear waste be managed, how can environmental safety be assured, how can proliferation be avoided, these are but some of the questions that need answers before a commitment to go nuclear is made. INPRO provides tools to countries to assess these factors and ensure sustainability for nuclear energy systems.
And, perhaps more importantly, INPRO brings together technology holders and users with the understanding that the nuclear industry is a global sector, and that when it comes to efficient nuclear energy production and use, countries are interdependent.
"No one country or region can work in isolation when working to tap in on nuclear energy," says Hussam Khartabil, Scientific Secretary of the INPRO Dialogue Forum.
"For example, one country may have uranium deposits; another, the technology to deal with spent fuel."
By bringing together experts from all over the world at the Dialogue Forum on Nuclear Energy Innovations, the IAEA is looking to piece together different perspectives on sustainable, co-operative approaches to tapping in on nuclear energy.
The forum is held at the IAEA, Vienna, from 1 to 4 February 2010, and includes participants from 32 Member States.
Topical issues discussed at the four-day meeting focus on the following:
- Socio- and macroeconomic factors that influence decisions on deployment of nuclear systems;
- Proven technology, i.e. technology in an innovative nuclear power plant system which should be "proven" or "mature" before it is included in a proposed design; and
- Safety approaches for innovative nuclear systems, which are an essential consideration for the overall assessment of a given innovative nuclear energy system.
The INPRO Dialogue Forum was organized by the Department of Nuclear Energy (INPRO and PESS) in cooperation with the Department of Technical Cooperation and the Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.
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.