2019 was a very active and impactful year at the NEA. During this year, the NEA released flagship reports on the system costs of electricity, the supply of medical radioisotopes and the long-term operation of nuclear power reactors. It organised conferences and workshops corresponding to the needs of member countries in the application and exploration of nuclear science and technology, including the country-specific nuclear safety culture forum in Finland and the first Global Forum on Innovation for the Future of Nuclear Energy. The Agency also continued its efforts in enhancing international co-operation with events such as the first Roundtable for International Co‑operation in Final Disposal of High‑level Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel. Watch our year‑in‑review video here to see the highlights and key moments of 2019.
Nuclear and Social Science Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities for Speaking Across the Disciplinary Divide
The NEA organised a workshop on the "Nuclear and Social Science Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities for Speaking Across the Disciplinary Divide" on 12‑13 December 2019. The first‑of‑its‑kind event brought together over 100 participants, including social science and humanities researchers, academic nuclear engineers, practitioners and policy makers. The participants examined the current scope of research in the social sciences with a focus on nuclear energy, and identified ways of transforming research findings into recommendations for practice. The two‑day workshop aimed to build intellectual bridges across the nuclear and social sciences, as well as the academic and practitioner divides. Selected papers from the workshop will be published in a forthcoming special issue of the nuclear engineering journal Nuclear Technology. Workshop participants expressed a keen interest in developing inter- and transdisciplinary research collaborations and continuing their dialogue beyond the workshop. The NEA will work to identify opportunities for such collaborations in the coming months.
Exploratory Meeting on Improving the Gender Balance in Nuclear Energy
As is the case for many areas of science and technology, women are significantly under-represented in technical and leadership positions in the nuclear sector. This lack of gender diversity may have substantial impacts on the future of nuclear energy in NEA member countries and certainly represents a loss of needed talent when the workforce is aging and many experts are nearing retirement. Attracting, recruiting and retaining women in science and technology, as well as enhancing the conditions and prospects for women and girls at every stage of their education and careers, is a challenge for which the NEA supports its member countries. In pursuit of these efforts, the NEA convened an "Exploratory Meeting on Improving the Gender Balance in Nuclear Energy" on 10‑11 December 2019.
The event brought together experts and professionals representing ministries, regulators, TSOs, international organisations from 12 NEA member countries. The participants exchanged information regarding the status of women in the nuclear sectors in their home countries and discussed what practical steps might be taken to address the challenges related to the participation of women in nuclear energy activities. They discussed short‑term efforts to increase the number of women advancing to leadership positions, as well as long‑term strategies to increase and accelerate the participation of women in nuclear field. During his remarks, Director‑General Magwood highlighted NEA initiatives such as NEA Mentoring Workshops and Global Panel of Universities. "We, at the NEA, believe the time is right to support our members by increasing the prominence of gender balance within national and global policy agendas, and finding paths to take substantive action," he said.
Nuclear safety technology and regulation
Joint NEA-IAEA meeting on electrical power systems
The heart of the systeThe NEA Working Group on Electrical Power Systems (WGELEC) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) organised a joint Technical Meeting on the Management of Direct Current Power Systems and Application of New Devices in Safety Electrical Power Systems on 2‑5 December 2019 in Vienna, Austria. The meeting attracted 52 participants from 24 countries and featured 30 technical presentations. During the topical sessions, the participants discussed the safety of direct current power systems and the challenges associated with introducing new electronic and digital devices in safety power systems. Meeting proceedings are currently in preparation and will include the summary of each session, presentations, meeting conclusions and recommendations. The WGELEC plans to hold another technical workshop in collaboration with the IAEA in October 2020 on the "Experiences with the Solutions Implemented to Identify and Manage Open Phase Conditions".m for radiological protection is optimisation, i.e. the search for the "best" protection for a given circumstance. Many experts in the radiological protection community have noted that protection choices are often made considering mostly radiological aspects rather than the broader social, economic and cultural issues that may be affected by the situation and the choice of protection measures. While prudence due to the uncertainty of radiological effects is understandable, addressing only radiological effects can lead to a "minimum" solution rather than an "optimum" solution, resulting in an unbalanced use of resources and unexpected non‑radiological consequences.
Human aspects of nuclear safety
Country‑Specific Safety Culture Forum: Finland
The NEA organised a nuclear safety culture forum in March 2019 in Finland, in co‑operation with the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) and the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), to examine the potential safety culture challenges arising from the national context. The event examined how nuclear safety culture is affected by the national cultural context of the country operating a nuclear facility. A new NEA report presents the results from the forum, based on views of representatives of the Finnish nuclear community, as expressed during focus group discussions and interviews held at the event. Read the report at oe.cd/nea-csscf-finland.
New report: Multi-Stage Validation of Nuclear Power Plant Control Room Designs and Modifications
A mature and well‑guided multi‑stage approach to the validation of nuclear power plant control room designs has the potential to reduce the risks involved in the design process. Such an approach can also increase the effectiveness of, and efficiencies in, the validation process, as well as overall confidence in the results. This relatively new concept of multi‑stage validation has yet to be defined in the technical literature, and thus this new NEA report describes the approach and the rationale for validating systems through a series of successive, co‑ordinated validation activities. The scope of application of multi‑scale validation addressed in this report includes aspects related to both the human factors engineering of new nuclear power plant main control room designs and modifications to existing control room designs. The objective is to provide a common reference for future dialogue, research and development concerning the multi‑stage validation approach, and ultimately to support the safe operation of nuclear power plants worldwide. Download the report at www.oecd‑nea.org/hans/pubs/2019/7466‑multi‑stage‑validation.pdf.
Application of robotic and remote systems in nuclear back-end
The recently‑established NEA Expert Group on the Application of Robotics and Remote Systems in the Nuclear Back‑end (EGRRS) held its kick‑off meeting on 9‑10 December 2019 with 40 experts representing 14 member countries and three international organisations. The participants reviewed the ongoing international activities on the application of robotic and remote systems in both the nuclear field and non‑nuclear sectors. They discussed the benefits and challenges of utilising robotic and remote systems in the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle. After a brainstorming session focusing on the environmental, economical, societal, legal and regulatory frameworks, as well as on organisational and structural frameworks and other cross‑cutting issues) to identify challenges, it was agreed to create three ad hoc groups to explore: i) the status of current technologies and usage, ii) barriers and impediments, and iii) cost‑benefit analysis.
Commonalities between and specificities of decommissioning and legacy management
On 13 December 2019 the NEA held an ad hoc meeting on the commonalities between and the specificities of decommissioning and legacy management. The meeting was attended by 18 experts from seven NEA member countries and the IAEA that included regulators, government officials, as well as decommissioning and legacy management specialists. Participants discussed shared areas of work between the decommissioning and legacy management fields, as well as those areas that are particular to either. The participants identified priority common issues and noted these in a draft mandate for a potential new expert group to be established under the NEA Committee on Decommissioning of Nuclear Installations and Legacy Management (CDLM).
Nuclear development and economics
The Supply of Medical Isotopes: An Economic Diagnosis and Possible Solutions
Technetium‑99m (Tc‑99m) is the most commonly used radioisotope in nuclear medicine diagnostic scans. It is essential for accurate diagnoses of diseases and effective patient care in health systems of OECD countries. For example, Tc‑99m is used for diagnoses of cancer, heart disease and neurological disorders including dementia and movement disorders. The recently‑published report The Supply of Medical Isotopes: An Economic Diagnosis and Possible Solutions presents findings of joint work between the OECD Health Committee and the NEA on the supply of Tc‑99m. It explores the main reasons behind the unreliable supply of Tc‑99m in health‑care systems and policy options to address the issue. demand. Download the report at oe.cd/Tc‑99m‑supply.
10th mandate of the European Nuclear Energy Tribunal (ENET)
1 January 2020 marked the beginning of the 10th mandate of the European Nuclear Energy Tribunal. The Tribunal consists of seven independent judges appointed for five years by decision of the OECD Council. It has jurisdiction over disputes between states parties to the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy or to the Brussels Convention Supplementary to the Paris Convention regarding the application or interpretation of these Conventions. The OECD Council designated as judges for the 10th mandate of the Tribunal: Ms Ulla-Maija MOISIO (Finland), Ms Federica PORCELLANA (Italy), Mr Francis DELAPORTE (Luxembourg), Ms Ida SØREBØ (Norway), Mr Miguel SOUSA FERRO (Portugal), Mr Antonio VERCHER NOGUERA (Spain) and Mr Khalil BUKHARI (United Kingdom). The Tribunal will hold its Inaugural Session on 7 February 2020 at the OECD headquarters in Paris. Read more on the ENET at oe.cd/15O and on the Paris and Brussels Conventions at oe.cd/15P.
The Legal Frameworks for Long‑Term Operation of Nuclear Power Reactors
With almost 70% of the operating nuclear power reactors over 30 years of age, countries around the world are assessing whether to allow reactor operation past the 50‑60 year mark and potentially up to 80 years. Ensuring a proper legal framework for the long‑term operation (LTO) of nuclear power reactors is a key component of such considerations.
The NEA recently published a report to provide insights into the various laws, regulations and policies that contribute to different countries’ approaches to LTO. By collecting information from more than 20 NEA member and non‑member countries, this report highlights both commonalities among approaches as well as possible reasons for variations. Ultimately, the information gathered can serve as a vital resource for future exchanges respecting the legal aspects of LTO, with a view to further development and strengthening of the collective understanding of these issues. Download the report at oe.cd/nea‑lto‑npp.
Applications closing soon for the NEA International Nuclear Law Essentials (INLE)
The five‑day NEA International Nuclear Law Essentials (INLE) course aims to provide participants with a comprehensive understanding of the various interrelated legal issues relating to the safe, efficient and secure use of nuclear energy. This intensive course has been designed to accommodate the needs and interests of lawyers working in either the public or the private sectors but will also be of interest to scientists, engineers, policymakers, managers and other professionals working in the nuclear field. The next session of the INLE will take place on 17‑21 February 2020. For more information on the course and to apply, see oe.cd/INLE.
Nuclear science and data
NEA Data Bank meets with stakeholders in Russia
The NEA Data Bank held a meeting with its Russian stakeholders on 2 December 2019 to review six years of collaboration between the NEA Data Bank and Russia, to identify areas of future co‑operation, and to foster Russian participation in the Data Bank's activities. Hosted by Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation ROSATOM, the meeting gathered 40 Russian experts representing 32 establishments including research institutes, R&D companies, regulators, vendors and universities. The participants acknowledged the value of having access to the NEA Data Bank Computer Program Services, including the computer programs and training courses. They also recognised the significant gains made for the codes deposited at the NEA Data Bank for re‑distribution. ROSATOM expressed its proactive support for the NEA Data Bank activities.