This week the NEA Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy held its biannual meeting to review the main aspects of the NEA’s programme of work and co-operative activities. This was the first time that the Committee had met remotely in its 64-year history.
The NEA Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy is primarily made up of senior officials from national atomic energy authorities and associated ministries. It is the highest decision making body at the NEA and oversees and shapes the work of the Agency to ensure its responsiveness to member countries' needs.
The Committee noted its appreciation to the Agency for continuing to advance its work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Member country representatives have remained engaged with the Agency via remote conferencing technologies, virtual missions, online workshops and webinars.
A key highlight of the October meeting was a discussion on the future of nuclear education, science, technology and policy. Nuclear education is an increasingly important priority for NEA member countries, all of which will need a new generation of highly-qualified scientists and engineers to ensure the continued safe and efficient use of nuclear technologies for a wide range of industrial, scientific and medical purposes. In this context, and based on the findings of two exploratory meetings held with representatives of leading academic institutions from NEA member countries, the Steering Committee approved the establishment of a Global Forum on Nuclear Education, Science, Technology and Policy. The Forum will provide a formal framework for sustained co-operation amongst academic institutions, policymakers and key stakeholders in the nuclear energy sector and civil society.
The Steering Committee also expressed its support for the NEA's ongoing efforts to explore new and creative approaches to improving gender balance in the nuclear science and technology arena. As part of these efforts, data collection and the possible development of a new legal instrument are to be explored.
Among the decisions taken at the October meeting, the committee agreed on the establishment of a new NEA Joint Project entitled QUENCH-ATF (Accident-Tolerant Fuel cladding bundle testing at QUENCH facility in KIT, Germany). The purpose of this project is to investigate the chemical, mechanical and thermal-hydraulics behaviour of accident-tolerant fuel (ATF) claddings in design basis accidents and beyond design basis accidents scenarios. The committee also noted the implementations of two new joint projects in the area of nuclear safety: the Reduction of Severe Accident Uncertainties (ROSAU) Project and the Rod-bundle Heat-transfer Experiments (RBHT) Project.
The meeting agenda also included presentations on recent NEA reports and analyses: Legal Frameworks for Long-Term Operation of Nuclear Power Reactors, International Roundtable on the Final Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel: Summary Report and Unlocking Reductions in the Construction Costs of Nuclear: A Practical Guide for Stakeholders.