Infrastructure development

More than two dozen countries are considering or have decided to add nuclear power as a stable source of electricity to their national energy mix. The infrastructure necessary for a safe, secure and sustainable nuclear power programme must be planned and prepared carefully and requires long-term commitment.

Launching a nuclear power programme is a major undertaking that requires careful planning, preparation and investment in time, institutions, finances and human resources. It involves 10-15 years of preparatory work and a commitment for around 100 years. Developing the infrastructure for a successful introduction or expansion of nuclear power requires many activities, such as building national institutions, establishing a legal and regulatory framework, developing human resources and financial strategies, addressing radioactive waste management and involving stakeholders.

It is the sovereign decision of every country to launch a nuclear power programme. The IAEA does not influence that decision. But when a country decides to go that route, the Agency provides guidance, advice, training and review services. It has developed the Milestones Approach, an internationally accepted method to implement nuclear power programmes. This is a phased, comprehensive method, enabling a country to understand the commitments and obligations associated with developing a safe, secure and sustainable nuclear power programme.

The Milestones Approach comprises three phases for the development of a national infrastructure for nuclear power. The process begins with a country carefully considering the nuclear power option in context of its overall energy policy, leading to a knowledgeable decision whether or not to proceed with a nuclear power programme. Once a decision is taken, the supporting frameworks, institutions and infrastructure need to be developed, leading to initiating a successful bidding process or negotiating a contract for the first nuclear power plant. After a technology is selected and a contract awarded, the plant itself is constructed and readied for operation.

Many organizations have roles and responsibilities in making decisions and implementing a national nuclear programme, including government ministries, nuclear and other regulatory bodies, utilities, grid operators, research institutes, as well as universities and the public. The Milestones Approach describes a coordinating mechanism, for example a Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organization, to bring together a wide range of technical expertise from across these various institutions.

The IAEA publication Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power documents this approach. Other IAEA guidance and materials are also relevant to nuclear power development, including the IAEA safety standards.

Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review mission

One of the most requested review services by newcomers is the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review mission. Upon invitation, IAEA and international experts review the status of a country’s nuclear power development. The recommendations and suggestions provided enable the country to update its national action plan and move the programme forward. Other IAEA services look in detail at specific aspects of nuclear infrastructure.

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