IAEA tool to make strategic decisions about development of nuclear power
Nuclear energy systems have complex physical and institutional infrastructure that easily span several human generations.
A new tool is now available to help national authorities in making strategic decisions about the development of nuclear power. Developed over the last four years by experts from the IAEA and 16 countries, the new tool helps develop ‘roadmaps’, i.e. visions and plans of how to achieve, enhance and monitor an increasingly sustainable nuclear energy system in the long term.
It can also be used to identify how countries can benefit from innovations in nuclear technology and infrastructure, both nationally and through cooperation with other countries.
A nuclear energy system encompasses all nuclear facilities from mining uranium through electricity generation to radioactive waste management and the permanent disposal of high-level waste, and the related institutional framework, both legal and regulatory.
Nuclear energy systems have complex physical and institutional infrastructure that easily span several human generations. Also, developing or expanding these systems requires extensive planning, lead times and resources, especially for the design and commercialization of new and innovative components.
Experts from 16 countries last month finalized the results of the project on ‘Roadmaps for a transition to globally sustainable nuclear energy systems’ – or ROADMAPS for short – and its final report, to be published by the IAEA.
“Undertaking road mapping for a national nuclear energy system facilitates finding answers to several key questions,” explained Vladimir Kuznetsov from the IAEA’s International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors (INPRO)Section, who has led the project. “The major one is how to get from the present system to a future national nuclear energy system with enhanced sustainability, and to do that efficiently – without excessive investments in national infrastructure.”
Sustainability refers to the establishment of a nuclear energy system in a way that – in line with the United Nations definition – can ‘meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.
To determine whether a system can be considered sustainable, it is assessed by applying the INPRO Methodology, a complex and holistic assessment method of the entire nuclear energy system in several key areas: economics, infrastructure, waste management, proliferation resistance, safety, and environment.
Other issues that roadmapping can address include the evolution of nuclear energy systems over time, the domestic production vs import of products and services such as entire nuclear power plants, fuel, maintenance, and operations services, as well as preferences about innovative technologies and potential cooperation with other countries.
“Roadmapping that is performed in cooperation among technology users and suppliers could also provide strategic insights into international markets for products and services for the various peaceful uses of nuclear energy,” said Kuznetsov. With this, technology suppliers could better plan expansions or reductions of their industrial capacities, while technology users would have a clearer picture from where the required products and services could be procured and where there could be bottlenecks.
Five countries, Armenia, Belarus, Romania, Russia and Ukraine had applied the ROADMAPS tool on a trial basis and developed examples of national plans. Their case studies provided valuable feedback for fine-tuning the approach.
The IAEA will make the roadmapping tool available to the Member States and provide training in its application, as part of a new service that assists countries in scenario modeling and decision support analysis for the development of nuclear energy systems with enhanced sustainability.