Benefits could include a more robust supply chain and faster construction of new plants
(NucNet) A number of the world’s nuclear industry leaders have endorsed proposals by the World Nuclear Association (WNA) for greater international standardization of nuclear power reactor designs.
WNA director-general John Ritch has said that the benefits of international standardization include better economies of scale in manufacturing supply chain, enhanced experience feedback on component performance and safety, and regulatory efficiency and predictability in new-plant approval and construction.
In an open letter sent this week to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, the World Association of Nuclear Operators, the European Nuclear Safety Regulator Group and the Multinational Design Evaluation Program, Mr Ritch said:
“To achieve standardization will require the combined efforts of industry, regulators, national governments and inter-governmental institutions.”
Signatories to the letter included Areva’s chief executive officer (CEO) Anne Lauvergeon, the chairman and CEO of Electricité de France, Henri Proglio, the president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric, Aris Candris, and the executive vice-president and chief nuclear officer of the Tokyo Electric Power Company Ichiro Takekuro.
Mr Ritch said the WNA vehicle for engaging on the topic is its expert working group on Cooperation in Reactor Design Evaluation and Licensing (CORDEL). The WNA letter references a CORDEL report which envisages three stages by which standardization might be achieved.
Description of the three stages of reactor design certification
(text from executive summary)
The CORDEL proposal is a set of actions - to be taken by industry, governments and regulators - that build on current activities in the direction of achieving the standardization goal.
The proposal envisages three phases:
1) Share design assessment. Once a design is licensed in one country, the approving regulator should share information with other national regulators, conveying its full experience in the safety assessment of the design, and receiving regulators should draw upon this experience.
Additionally, if several regulators are concurrently reviewing the same design, they could form a collaborative network and discuss their assessment methodology (including criteria) and share their assessment results. This sharing process, which can be undertaken without any change in existing regulatory frameworks, may itself foster tendencies toward harmonization of licensing standards and procedures.
2) Validate and accept design approval. Once a design is licensed in certain countries, such design approval could be taken by other countries' authorities after validation as sufficient for licensing there. Although using this simplified validation procedure would heighten efficiency for industry and regulators, it may require some adjustments in existing national regulatory and legislative frameworks.
3) Issue international design certification. By international agreement, a procedure could be created whereby a design could be certified by a team of national regulators (from countries with a direct interest in the design). Under the agreement, participating countries would accept this certification.
Alternatively, such international certification could be facilitated by a designated international organization. Of course, national regulators would remain responsible for assessing the adaptation of the internationally certified design to local circumstances and for the supervision of construction, commissioning and operation.
These three phrases, representing a steadily increasing level of innovation and international cooperation among regulators and governments, would serve the combined goals of increased safety and regulatory and industrial efficiency. Expanding regulatory harmonization has to be simultaneously facilitated by alignment of licensing processes and by harmonization of national safety requirements, which currently vary significantly from country to country.
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