Paris, 14 September 2009
Top Regulators Take Important Steps to Enhance the Safety of New Nuclear Reactor Designs
Top nuclear regulators have met at the OECD, in Paris, with vendors, operators and standards organisations, taking important steps to enhance global nuclear safety.
With a growing number of countries planning to build new nuclear reactors, an international initiative called the Multinational Design Evaluation Programme (MDEP) was launched in 2007 with the aim of developing innovative approaches and pooling the resources and knowledge of nuclear safety authorities in charge of new reactor design regulatory review. Under the MDEP, national regulatory authorities are aiming at increasing the protection of the public and the environment. In particular, through this enhanced co-operation, regulators will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the design review process and will increase convergence of regulatory practices.
The nuclear regulators of ten countries, including Canada, China, Finland, France, Japan, Korea, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States, are participating in the MDEP. The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) is the Technical Secretariat for the programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also takes part in MDEP activities.
Having progressed significantly in their objectives, the MDEP members felt that it was timely to organise a formal exchange with national regulators from other countries, industry representatives and standards development organisations. The MDEP conference was held on 10-11 September and brought together more than 170 attendees from 23 countries and 10 international organisations.
Mr. Luis Echávarri, Director-General of the NEA was pleased to see that “the MDEP programme has been formally converted into a long-term project to facilitate co-operation on new reactor design reviews and to bring about convergence of regulatory requirements and practices.”
Regulators from countries with a limited number of reactors or with civil nuclear plans were eager to benefit from the experience of nuclear safety authorities reviewing new reactor types.
Mr. André-Claude Lacoste, Chairman of the French Nuclear Safety Authority and also the MDEP Policy Group, confirmed that “the MDEP is a key programme for new build activities. This is a long-term process that will produce interim results. To improve efficiency, we will focus on a limited number of tasks. We also need the active involvement of all stakeholders. I am happy that the conference has successfully brought together such a large representation of vendors, operators, code organisations and regulators. This should, however, be a continuous process.”
He added that the conference has given the opportunity to all participants to be fully briefed on MDEP activities and accomplishments, and also to provide their recommendations on how to co‑operate globally, to promote standard designs and to harmonise requirements.
Dr. Gregory Jaczko, appointed Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in May 2009, was attending his first MDEP conference. Dr. Jaczko stressed the importance of the MDEP for enhancing nuclear safety globally. “The MDEP is succeeding because each regulatory authority is becoming better informed, more focused on safety and stronger in its independent decision making. I fully support this MDEP conference and future efforts at openness and co-operation as essential elements of strong and successful regulatory oversight of both operating and new reactors.”
Prof. Jukka Laaksonen, Director-General of STUK, the Finnish nuclear safety authority, stressed that “standardisation enhances safety and the MDEP addresses key issues to minimise licensing uncertainties.”
Dr. Nikolay Kutin, Chairman of Rostechnadzor, the Russian nuclear safety authority, recalled his expectations in terms of developing procedures and criteria for reactor design reviews. He highlighted the globalisation of the nuclear market and hence the need for convergence.
Dr. Michael Weightman, chief inspector of the UK Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, underlined “the importance of the MDEP regarding the interaction among people, the need to have the right pace to produce results in the short term and expectations that the products will be useful for a large community.”
Mr. Koichiro Nakamura, Deputy Director-General of the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, confirmed the active participation of Japanese authorities in the MDEP activities and encouraged an adequate interaction with industry.
Mr. Lacoste summarised the main conclusions reached after two days of debates at the conference, indicating that the MDEP is an initiative pooling an effective and efficient network of experts from different countries, that great expectations have been placed on the results to be obtained by the MDEP, and therefore the initiative should improve the dissemination of information to a wide group of stakeholders (regulators, new entrants, industry and the public). He will propose to the MDEP Policy Group that a similar conference be organised within two years. The Policy Group will also address the best way to interact with industry.
Recorded webcast - The International Press Conference: Global nuclear safety and the construction of new reactors
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Ms. Cynthia Gannon-Picot
NEA membership consists of 30 OECD countries. The mission of the NEA is to assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It provides authoritative assessments and forges common understandings on key issues, as input to government decisions on nuclear energy policy and to broader OECD policy analyses in areas such as energy and sustainable development. The information, data and analyses it provides draw on one of the best international networks of technical experts.