Digital transformation: Opportunities and challenges for the nuclear sector

By drawing on the lessons learnt from first-of-a-kind Generation III projects, the recent NEA study Unlocking Reductions in the Construction Costs of Nuclear: A Practical Guide for Stakeholders identifies technological, organisational, regulatory and policy drivers to reduce nuclear construction costs, foster positive learning and continually improve large Gen-III reactor projects. The study highlights three technology approaches in particular that could be implemented to deliver rapid cost reductions in the short-term:

  • Digital transformation;
  • Advanced construction methods;
  • Seismic analysis.

In this context, the NEA launched a new advanced technology and nuclear cost initiative with the objective to provide decision makers with a clear understanding of the development stage of these technology approaches, their cost reduction potentials and the challenges that may preclude their large-scale deployment. The initiative kicked off with a workshop on 27-28 May 2021, which brought together experts from the public, private and academic sectors to discuss a number of fundamental issues pertaining to digital transformation in the nuclear sector.

The benefits of digital transformation are not limited to the construction phase. As such, the workshop explored the opportunities and challenges associated with digital transformation throughout the whole lifecycle of a nuclear power plant: design, construction, operation and dismantling. It focused on mature solutions and incremental innovations which are consistent with the near-term learning pace of nuclear power, while providing some indications on future developments in digitalized nuclear systems. The workshop also addressed the regulatory viewpoints in order to identify best practices and potential challenges that are specific to the nuclear sector.

Opening remarks were delivered by NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV, followed by a keynote address by Fiona Rayment, Chief Science and Technology Officer at the United Kingdom National Nuclear Laboratory.



Opening session Day 1

  • William D. Magwood, IV, Director-General, NEA
  • Fiona Rayment, Chief Science and Technology Officer at the United Kingdom National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL)


Session 1
Recent progress in the adoption of digital technologies in the lifecycle of nuclear power plants

  • Robert Austin, Senior Program Manager, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
  • Véronique Remande, Digital Project Manager, and Silvano Erlicher, Technical & Scientific Director, EGIS
  • Cherif Desouky, Simulator and Digital Technology Manager, and Stephane Peter Blanchard, Senior Digital Technology Specialist, Nawah Energy Company
  • Thomas Hassel, Head of Underwater Technology Centre, Institute of Materials Science, Leibniz University Hannover
  • Alice Caponiti, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Reactor Fleet and Advanced Reactor Deployment, Office of Nuclear Energy, United States Department of Energy


Session 2
Changing nuclear organisations and supply chains with the digital transformation

  • Vincent Champain, Senior Executive Vice President, Information Technology, Digital Performance and New Business, Framatome
  • Jennifer Edey, Vice President Site Services, Bruce Power
  • Olga Tolstunova, Chief Digital Officer, Vice-President, JSC AtomStroyExport, Rosatom State Corporation Engineering Division
  • Zainab Alquwaitaei, Information and Communication Technology Director, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC)
  • Valérie Faudon, Executive Director, the French Nuclear Energy Society (SFEN)


Opening session Day 2

  • Matthew Mairinger, Canadian Operating Officer, North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN), and Technical Engineer, Ontario Power Generation (OPG)


Session 3
Looking into the future of digitalisation of nuclear systems

  • Brett Plummer, Chief Nuclear Officer and Vice President at Point Lepreau Nuclear Power Station at Énergie NB Power
  • Robert Plana, Chief Technology Officer, Assystem
  • Emilio Baglietto, Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Nigel Hart, Head of Digital UK SMR, Rolls-Royce
  • Diane Cameron, Head of the Division of Nuclear Technology Development and Economics, NEA


Session 4
Digital transformation and nuclear regulators

  • Jussi Heinonen, Director of Strategic Development of Regulatory Oversight, Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK)
  • Marco Merens, Acting Chief Programmes Coordination and Implementation, International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
  • Michael Rinker, Director General, Directorate of Assessment and Analysis, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)
  • Jeanne Johnston, Branch Chief, Electrical Engineering and I&C Long Term Operations and Modernization Branch, United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
  • Susan Brissette, Founder & Principal Consultant, Wild Matriarch Inc.


Closing session

  • Patrick Ledermann, Foundation of the National Academy of Technologies of France (NATF), and Chair of the NEA Committee for Technical and Economic Studies on Nuclear Energy Development and the Fuel Cycle (NDC)