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Milestones Approach

The IAEA Milestones Approach enables a sound development process for a nuclear power programme. It is a phased comprehensive method to assist countries that are considering or planning their first nuclear power plant. Experience suggests that the time from the initial consideration of the nuclear power option by a country to the operation of its first nuclear power plant is about 10–15 years. 

The aim is to help Member States understand the commitments and obligations associated with developing a nuclear power programme. Countries that already have nuclear power can assess their preparedness for expansion.

Three Phases and Three Milestones

The Milestones Approach splits the activities necessary to establish the infrastructure for a nuclear power programme into three progressive phases of development, with the duration of each dependent on the degree of commitment and resources applied in the country. The completion of each phase is marked by a specific “Milestone” at which progress can be assessed and a decision can be made about the readiness to move on to the next phase. 

The three phases in developing the infrastructure necessary to support a nuclear power programme are:

Phase 1: Considerations before a decision to launch a nuclear power programme is taken; a Pre-Feasibility Study will help a country establish a strong national position and answer the key question: why nuclear? This process begins early in Phase 1 after nuclear power is included as an option in the energy strategy.

Phase 2: Preparatory work for the contracting and construction of a nuclear power plant after a policy decision has been taken; in this phase, key organizations as well as the legal and regulatory frameworks are established.

Phase 3: Activities to contract, licence and construct the first nuclear power plant are undertaken.

The completion of each phase is marked by a specific milestone at which the progress of the development effort can be assessed and a decision can be made to move on to the next phase. These milestones are:

Milestone 1: Ready to make a knowledgeable commitment to a nuclear power programme;

Milestone 2: Ready to invite bids/negotiate a contract for the first nuclear power plant;

Milestone 3: Ready to commission and operate the first nuclear power plant.

Nuclear Infrastructure Issues

The Milestones Approach includes 19 nuclear infrastructure issues, requiring specific actions during each of the three phases. Completion of the actions for a phase represents the achievement of the associated milestone. The order in which these 19 infrastructure issues are presented does not imply relative importance. All of them require appropriate attention.

Three Key Organisations

Three key organizations are involved in building a nuclear power programme:

The Government should create a mechanism, for example a Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organization, or NEPIO, to coordinate the work of all organizations involved. The overall responsibility for safety lies with the Government.

A competent, independent Regulatory Body must be developed; it is responsible  for safety oversight and ensuring compliance with the legal and regulatory frameworks.

The Owner/Operator must be competent to operate the nuclear power plant in a safe and reliable manner and meet regulatory requirements.

The Milestones Document

Details on the individual phases, milestones, infrastructure issues, and the roles and responsibilities of the key organizations are explained in the IAEA guidance publication:
Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power (IAEA Nuclear Energy Series NG-G-3.1 Rev.1)

To support Member States implementing the Milestones Approach, the IAEA has also prepared other guidance documents and provides training and expert advice, as well as peer review services, in particular the Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR). Drawing on this review, the IAEA develops a country-specific integrated work plan to assist newcomer States in addressing gaps in their nuclear infrastructure and conducts follow-up reviews to track their progress.

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