The 1999 Annual Report of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)
Assuring nuclear competence into the 21st century was a major focus of the Nuclear Energy Agency in 1999
In its 1999 annual report published today, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) notes that the future of nuclear energy will depend on a number of technical, environmental, economic, social and political factors. A total of 348 nuclear power units were in operation in OECD countries in 1999, providing almost one quarter of total electricity production. However, nuclear energy continued to be a subject of controversy and public debate. In two Member countries, political decisions have been taken to begin phasing out nuclear energy production.
Assessing ways to maintain future nuclear competence was therefore a major focus of NEA work in 1999. A number of experienced specialists will be leaving the field over the next decade and nuclear engineering courses have begun to disappear as nuclear energy careers become less attractive. A workshop was held during the year to consider this issue and devise new approaches to recruiting, training and retaining staff in the area of nuclear safety, and preserving a critical mass of knowledge in both industry and regulatory bodies. In addition, the NEA focused specifically on the situation with respect to nuclear education and training, and prepared a report which includes recommendations to governments and industry to counter a potential shortfall in nuclear expertise in the medium to long term.
In a related effort, the implications of the decrease in nuclear safety research funding and the untimely shutdown of important research facilities were explored during the year. Recommendations were made regarding the organisation of centres of excellence in certain areas, where facilities and teams of experts could be maintained in order to ensure the continued availability of advanced knowledge for future nuclear safety programmes.
this connection, the NEA has taken steps to pool available R&D
expertise and technical infrastructure from its Member countries in
order to initiate new international safety-related research projects
such as the CABRI project in France dealing with high burn-up nuclear
fuel and the PLASMA project on nuclear plant monitoring, a collaborative
effort between Japan, Hungary and the OECD Halden Reactor Project.
Nuclear energy and electricity market deregulation and sustainable development issues were also high on the NEA agenda. A meeting for energy policy makers, organised jointly with the International Energy Agency (IEA), addressed issues raised by current trends in nuclear power production in OECD countries. A study published during the year on the reduction of capital costs of nuclear power plants concluded that significant economic gains could be obtained through technological progress, enhanced project management and a number of specific measures.
A broad dialogue was initiated on, and directions proposed for, the future evolution of the international system of radiation protection, particularly in light of the increased pressure from civil society to limit risks to human beings and to the environment, and to become more involved in radiation protection decision making. The NEA issued a strategy for nuclear emergency management and communication, based on several years' experience from international exercises.
A key requirement for the continued use of nuclear energy is the safe management of radioactive waste. A new study reviewing developments in geologic disposal in the last decade concluded that the technology is mature enough for deployment, but progress still needs to be made in building confidence and addressing the ethical and political dimensions of this issue. During the year, the NEA carried out "peer reviews" of national radioactive waste management plans and programmes in Japan and the United Kingdom.
The 1999 Annual Report (pdf, 1335 kb) of the Nuclear Energy Agency is available free online at www.oecd-nea.org or in paper format on request from the NEA Publications Office, Le Seine St. Germain, 12 boulevard des Iles, 92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux, France, and from the OECD Publications and Information Centres:
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Ms. Cynthia Gannon-Picot