Press release
Paris, 27 February 2002


NEA assesses safety issues and research needs for nuclear reactors of the future

Designers, utility executives, regulators and researchers from 18 countries and 4 international organisations met in Paris on 18-20 February 2002 to identify safety issues of importance for advanced nuclear reactors, outline possible paths to resolve them, and define necessary research in this respect.

Organised by the NEA with the co-sponsorship of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and in collaboration with the European Commission (EC), this meeting brought together a broad range of parties with a potential stake in the development and deployment of such advanced nuclear power plants.

Unanimous agreement was reached among the participants on the need to continue implementing the principle of defence-in-depth in the design and review of advanced reactor concepts. However, proposals were made to complement the traditional approach with risk-informed analysis. Potential safety issues were discussed for advanced water reactor, gas-cooled reactor, and liquid-metal-cooled reactor concepts. Possible paths to their resolution will take into account the revival of nuclear power programmes in some member countries, and the need to maintain the nuclear option open. The role of international co-operation in the field of safety research was emphasised, as well as in the areas of preserving knowledge and competence.

Many countries believe that nuclear energy must remain or become an integral part of their energy mix to meet present and future energy supply needs, to contribute to energy security and to the mitigation of climate change.

New reactor designs and the associated nuclear fuel cycles are expected to have a higher level of safety as compared with current designs, optimise the use of resources, minimise the production of waste, offer strong resistance to the diversion of nuclear materials which can be used in weapons, and be economically competitive with other power sources. In addition to producing electricity, future nuclear energy systems may be used to produce process heat, hydrogen and desalinated water. These applications will be very important components of the future economy.

Several countries have initiated wide-ranging international discussions involving governments, industry and the research community on the development of next-generation nuclear energy systems. For example, the Generation IV International Forum launched by the Department of Energy of the United States now involves ten countries. The conclusions of this meeting will contribute to the progress of international co-operation under this initiative, in which the NEA participates. The IAEA, which participates in Generation IV, also sponsors the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO).

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