Addressing the challenges in the nuclear supply chain to ensure safe and reliable nuclear operations

Group photo: The 2024 Workshop on Nuclear Supply Chain: Assurance Today, Confidence Tomorrow

Suppliers play a critical role in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants. With a declining number of nuclear grade suppliers and a loss of skills in some regions, supply chain oversight raises specific challenges that require regulators to adopt new practices and increase co-operation. In this context, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) organised a workshop to address the latest challenges related to supply chain oversight practices and to examine potential risks that the nuclear industry will need to consider to ensure safe and reliable nuclear operations. This two-day workshop, held in Boulogne-Billancourt in France from 5-6 March 2024, brought together more than 130 participants from 22 countries.

During his opening remarks, NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV highlighted the importance of collaboration among regulators, utilities, and suppliers in nuclear supply chains. He also noted that new technologies, such as small modular reactors (SMRs), will bring new challenges. Addressing the audience, Director-General Magwood emphasised that the NEA will actively support co-operation among member countries in tackling the nuclear supply chain issues.

The opening session also included remarks by Julien Collet, Deputy Director-General of the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN).

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Opening remarks by William D. Magwood, IV, NEA Director-General, and Julien Collet, ASN Deputy Director-General.

Sama Bilbao y León, Director-General of the World Nuclear Association (WNA), Fuming Jiang, Head of Operational Safety of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Oliver Martin, Project Leader of the European Commission — Joint Research Centre (EC-JRC), delivered keynote speeches during the workshop.

Five moderators and sixteen panellists participated in the workshop discussions on the four main topics: supply chain management, new challenges, quality delivery, and organisational culture of the nuclear supply chain.

The supply chain management session discussed readiness and strategic planning against potential challenges. Industry representatives and regulators also addressed opportunities and risks associated with small modular reactors. A session dedicated to quality delivery explored how industry standards (e.g., ISO 19443) could improve quality delivery and mitigate future burdens in a changing supply environment. The final session examined how the development of an appropriate organisational culture could support safe and reliable delivery.

Interactive workshop sessions gave participants the opportunity to actively engage with the speakers and contribute to the discussions.

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Véronique Rouyer, Head of the NEA's Division of Nuclear Safety Technology and Regulation, concluded the event noting, “As this workshop is held in Boulogne-Billancourt, known as the birthplace of the three major French industries - aircraft, automobile, and film - it will be a starting point for communication about emerging issues in the nuclear supply chain.”

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Closing remarks by Véronique Rouyer, Head of the NEA's Division of Nuclear Safety Technology and Regulation.

The workshop was organised by the NEA Working Group on Supply Chain (WGSUP) which works to provide a mechanism for nuclear safety regulators and technical support organisations to share their knowledge in making policy and licensing decisions, as well as oversight practices related to the supply chain. Following this workshop, the NEA will publish workshop proceedings.

Read more about the 2024 Workshop on Nuclear Supply Chain.

See also