Siting of nuclear facilities

Siting is the term used to describe the process to select where a nuclear installation is built and whether the decided location is suitable for it. Siting is one of the important decisions in the early stage of a planned nuclear energy project.

The selection and evaluation of a site suitable for a nuclear installation are crucial processes. They can significantly affect the costs, public acceptance and safety of the installation. Poor planning and lack of knowledge can lead to faulty decision-making and can cause major delays of the project. Siting is a multifaceted process, involving many types of site characteristics. Those characteristics can affect the safety of a nuclear installation over the whole period during which it is planned, situated and operated.

Site characteristics that can affect safety include earthquakes, geotechnical phenomena, volcanism, flooding, meteorological events, human-induced events, dispersion of radioactivity and feasibility of emergency plans. These are also called safety-related characteristics. There are also non-safety-related factors: nuclear security considerations, technology, economics, topography, availability of cooling water, availability of transport and access to the electricity grid.

Investigating site characteristics to ensure safety

The safety of nuclear installations against the characteristics of a site is derived through careful investigation. Basic information on site characteristics is necessary when screening less preferred sites and selecting the most appropriate site. Site investigation activities must start well before such a decision is taken.

A selected site needs to also undergo an in-depth investigation, which is called site evaluation. This is necessary to ultimately confirm that the site is suitable and to define the design basis of external hazards. For every external event, parameters are chosen so they can be used easily in the nuclear installation’s design and its safety assessment.

IAEA training and review services to assist Member States

The IAEA assists its Member States in applying the Agency’s Safety Standards on siting through safety review services, training and workshops. It offers the Site and External Events Design Review Service (SEED), during which a review team consisting of IAEA staff and external experts visits the location of a planned site and provides recommendations and suggestions in light of the Agency’s Safety Standards.

Together with Member States, the IAEA also holds national and regional workshops that aim at addressing issues or difficulties in Member States and identifying practical solutions in the area of siting, site evaluation and external events design. These workshops, which are called SEED Capacity-Building Workshops, are particularly recommended for Member States that are embarking on nuclear energy programmes for the first time.

The IAEA publishes a variety of technical documents, training materials, as well as guidelines for the SEED safety review service. The latter are used to provide information on how to request and receive SEED Review and Training services. The Agency also maintains the EESS portal, a collaborative platform that is password-protected and allows registered users to collaborate and exchange information on activities related to siting and protection of nuclear installations against external hazards.”

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