Nuclear safety´s long horizon

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Potential newcomers to the world of nuclear electricity production got close to the attention this week in India. An international conference in Mumbai on topical nuclear safety issues will help them focus on what IAEA experts describe as 'a hundred year horizon'.

'Many new entrants are embarking on nuclear power,' points out Mamdouh El-Shanawany, Head of the IAEA´s Safety Assessment Section. 'It requires a commitment of about 100 years from the beginning to the end.'

The conference provides an excellent opportunity for new and experienced nuclear power countries to learn and share knowledge about the safety infrastructure required for building and maintaining a safe and secure nuclear energy programme. It includes discussions on a wide range of issues including legal, regulatory, technological, human and industrial support. The conference brings together top nuclear regulators from among IAEA Member States.

'You cannot design, construct, operate and eventually decommission a nuclear plant without proper safety infrastructure. Therefore, new entrants need to build their nuclear safety infrastructure 5-10 years before embarking on nuclear power,' says Mr. El-Shanawany.

Mr. Tomihiro Taniguchi, IAEA Deputy Director for Nuclear Safety and Security, emphasized the need for 'new thinking' to strengthen the world´s safety and security regime at a time of renewed interest in the nuclear power option. 'One particular aspect of the dynamically changing global situation that underscores the need for new thinking is the multinational context of today´s nuclear business and activities which requires closer international cooperation,' he said.

Essential elements of a cooperative global framework include the application of IAEA safety standards, peer reviews - like the International Regulatory Review Service and Operational Safety Review Teams - and other advisory services at national and international levels, he said. They support the development of effective national safety infrastructures and the harmonised implementation of international instruments, such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention on the Safety of Radioactive Waste and Spent Fuel Management, and Codes of Conduct. 'The use of nuclear technology,' he emphasized, 'requires a strong commitment to safety that must endure through the lifetime of the programme.'

The IAEA provides a number of services to facilitate better safety, including the Peer Review of Operational Safety Performance Experience (PROSPER), the Incident Reporting System (IRS) and the Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) programme.

Nuclear safety is a national responsibility, and nations planning nuclear programmes or currently operating nuclear facilities must develop, maintain or improve safety through international and national cooperation. Equally important is knowledge transfer to safely and reliably operate and maintain the nuclear power programme. These efforts are necessary to protect citizens, neighbouring countries, the region, and the world.

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