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Statement at International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy

Paris France
International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy

Principle of Responsible Use in the Context of Nuclear Power Use

Now more than 60 countries are considering, or have an interest in, the introduction of nuclear power in their national energy strategies. The number of requests from these countries directed to the IAEA for TC support has increased more than three times in recent years.

This Conference represents a platform to share experience and lessons learned to improve access to nuclear power for Member States involved in planning and introducing nuclear power programmes. It is also an opportunity for the participants to identify what we all must do to ensure the realization of nuclear energy´s potential as a reliable, sustainable and environmentally friendly energy source: we must ensure that any use of nuclear energy is beneficial, responsible and sustainable. All of these are inherently linked.

Beneficial use implies that benefits outweigh associated costs and risks and that these risks and benefits are transparent to and accepted by the public. Transparency is critically important for the trust of the public in the country developing nuclear power as well as for the confidence and trust of neighbouring countries.

Sustainable use implies efficiency in using natural resources and ensuring that the knowledge about nuclear technology that is accumulated is preserved, used, and enlarged. Sustainable development also means pursuing advances in technology to continuously improve the safety, security, economic, proliferation resistant and environmental features of nuclear power.

Elements of Responsible Use

Responsible use of nuclear power implies that people and the environment are adequately protected and that the use of nuclear power does not increase the risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons and malicious use of nuclear materials.

All phases in the use of nuclear energy involve certain risks that include conventional and radiation risks. The IAEA Safety Standards reflect an international consensus on what constitutes a high level of nuclear safety and provide guidance and recommendations to achieve the desired level of safety. A high level of safety can be achieved through technological development and engineering solutions, effective human interventions, strong leadership for a strong safety culture and independent regulatory systems. The further development of technology will contribute to continuously enhancing the level of safety.

Safety and security measures have in common the aim of protecting human life and health and the environment and must be implemented in an integrated manner.

The fundamental objective of responsible use is a governmental obligation to comply with the NPT requirement that nuclear materials are not diverted for use in the production of nuclear weapons. The Agency safeguards are the primary means of verifying this compliance.

Another important element of responsible use is a long term commitment based on an understanding of all specific technical features of nuclear power (including spent fuel, waste management and decommissioning) as well as on the acceptance of international instruments and legal requirements such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, and the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident.

International Components of Responsible Use

Advancing the peaceful use of nuclear energy is indeed complex and involves many perspectives. This Conference is international, which reflects the fact that the international, multilateral dimensions of nuclear power cut across the above mentioned principles and must be discussed.

In particular, speaking about beneficial use, trust, transparency and openness to the international community and neighbouring countries have to be implemented. Considering sustainable use, it is not possible to ignore global material balances, available industrial capacity, international cooperation in R&D, etc.

The international dimension has to be applied all the more so in considering responsible use, where liability issues, nuclear legislation, the responsibility of the nuclear industry of supplying countries, the maturity of the regulatory framework, non-proliferation obligations, safety and security concerns all have an international component. Recent initiatives in the areas of assurance of supply, fuel banks, nuclear bonds, and multilateral nuclear approaches have to be considered as well. There is a sense of shared responsibility for assisting newcomers in developing economical, safe, secure and effective nuclear power programmes that do not contribute to the risk of nuclear proliferation.

IAEA´s Activities to Support Countries´ Access to Nuclear Power

The Agency plays an important role in fostering international cooperation, helping to coordinate multiple sources of assistance in a single country, and providing assessments of the readiness of the national nuclear infrastructure, the maturity of the national regulatory system, the safety culture, etc. Coordination benefits newcomers by making comprehensive assistance more effective. The Agency will continue to be independent and objective in its assessment and support of newcomers. And this benefits the international community by improving transparency and confidence in the responsible use of nuclear power.

The Agency´s publications such as Considerations to Launch a Nuclear Power Programme, Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power, Evaluation of the Status of National Nuclear Infrastructure Development, Handbook on Nuclear Law and others are widely used both in countries considering ways to build up infrastructure for national nuclear power programmes and in countries making practical progress.

A nuclear power programme is a major undertaking requiring careful planning, preparation and investment in time and human resources.

The responsible and knowledgeable decision by a Member State to embark on a nuclear programme assumes that social and economic considerations support such a decision and that there is a commitment to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, in a safe and secure manner, and to establish a national nuclear infrastructure for the governmental, legal, regulatory, managerial, technological, human and industrial support of the national nuclear programme. Compliance with international legal instruments, safety standards, security guidelines and safeguards requirements are essential for a responsible nuclear power programme.

Decision makers, advisers and senior managers in the governmental organizations, utilities, industrial organizations and regulatory bodies in the countries adopting or expanding nuclear power programmes, or exporting supplies for these programmes, should ensure that the needed national infrastructure is available.

The Agency has developed a number of guidance publications on how to start to build national nuclear power programmes and their supporting infrastructure based on the experience and good practices of countries with developed nuclear energy programmes. This experience has shown that early attention to all relevant issues can facilitate the efficient development of a successful national nuclear energy programme. Lack of appropriate attention may result in future difficulties and significantly affect the successful introduction of nuclear power.

The introduction of a nuclear power programme involves a commitment of at least 100 years to maintain a sustainable national infrastructure throughout operation, decommissioning and waste disposal. Another important element is that a Member State contemplating initiating a nuclear power programme should have a stable political, economic and social environment.

The commitment to start nuclear power requires strict attention to nuclear safety. A comprehensive safety framework includes development based on the IAEA´s Safety Standards, which represent an international consensus on the high level of safety required for the sustainable use of nuclear power. One of the principles they establish is that the ultimate responsibility for safety must rest with the operator.

In addition to nuclear safety, and no less significant, are the issues associated with the control of nuclear material, either to ensure the security of the material, or to ensure that all of the activities in a country can be demonstrated to ensure that there is no risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons and that all the materials are adequately accounted for and protected. This also requires the development of a culture, system and practices that ensure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities and the importance of their actions.

The Agency´s Milestones publication provides a framework for the development of the national nuclear infrastructure and helps a Member State determine its degree of progress in developing and implementing the infrastructure necessary for executing a nuclear power project so that assistance can be provided in a meaningful and timely manner. The Agency also offers Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions, which provide an external expert review of a country´s infrastructure development.

Coordination of actions with other organizations, such as donors, suppliers, nuclear energy agencies, and operator organizations, may provide confidence that a country has developed its nuclear power programme in the right way. This coordination can help to identify areas for potential assistance and finally ensure effective use of resources for regulating, constructing and safely operating a nuclear power plant.

Topics for Discussion

There are a number of issues associated with the responsible use of nuclear power that can be highlighted by the members of the panel:

    • roles of the government of a supplying country: expectations, experience, conditions, ways of strengthening responsible use and building capacity;


    • roles of the government, national industry and other organizations in a newcomer country: expectations, building competence and human resource development, strengthening responsible use, waste and spent fuel management policy;


    • role of regulatory organizations: vision, expectations, coordination, support mechanisms, networks;


    • role of industry: responsibility, different options for construction, support in operation, technology and knowledge transfer;


    • strengthening the non-proliferation regime, building confidence, trust and cooperation;


    • roles of, and expectations from, international organizations and initiatives; multilateral and international approaches; front and back end of the fuel cycle; and


  • link of responsible use (3S concept) with principles of beneficial and sustainable use.


Last update: 26 July 2017