Since its inception, the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has served as a flexible and powerful platform for multinational research co-operation, particularly in areas related to global nuclear safety. The projects conducted under the NEA’s auspices have for decades enabled nuclear safety regulators, industry and research organisations to share research costs and results. That, in turn, has supported safety regulations and practices and facilitated their harmonisation around the world.
The NEA held the Nuclear Safety Research Joint Projects Week: Success Stories and Opportunities for Future Development from 9 to 13 January to review the accomplishments of the joint safety projects over the last four decades. Through a series of webinars, leaders in the sector discussed the outcomes of close to fifty nuclear safety projects and examined how the established frameworks, research platforms and networks could support developments in nuclear energy, facilitating innovation and harmonisation.
The webinars were attended by around 450 experts from 59 countries and several international organisations. Participants highlighted the benefits of the projects to nuclear safety stakeholders and their importance for building research platforms and the competencies needed to develop the nuclear sector.
The discussions also addressed the challenges, including how joint safety projects can ensure that research is carried out in an efficient and effective manner and how they could better serve the development and maintenance of key competencies and infrastructures. Participants explored new ways to encourage public and private stakeholders to help fund future safety research joint projects.
Speaking at the opening of the events in a video, Veronique Rouyer, Head of Division of Nuclear Safety Technology and Regulation at the NEA, said: “There are still many opportunities to develop new research projects in the new international dynamics of nuclear energy. The framework exists, the framework has proven its effectiveness, the framework is flexible. It can be set up very easily if a set of partners are ready. The NEA environment, with all of its technical committees, is ready as well to facilitate the conversation.”
The event led to five key recommendations to enhance the efficiency and benefits of joint projects:
- Establish additional mechanisms and advisory panels at appropriate levels to prioritise needs in nuclear safety research, including for advanced concepts, and support the development of targeted international projects proposals.
- Promote a more integrated approach to safety research in the main safety technical areas (e.g. accident and ageing management) around sets of experimental platforms.
- Promote the involvement of the industry, including designers of advanced concepts, by placing greater emphasis on their needs.
- Secure the preservation and dissemination of project outcomes for expertise building and wider use, including in countries with recent nuclear development.
- Implement mechanisms within projects for enlarging expertise building.
Veronique Rouyer summed up the innovative, analytical and ambitious nature of the joint safety projects in her statement: “A safe nuclear energy must maintain this questioning attitude, to improve safety and performance and, whatever the competitiveness, the key fundamental issues must be discussed at the international level.”