Paris, 9 November 2006
The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) is supporting a new stage of an important international initiative, the Multinational Design Evaluation Programme (MDEP). The MDEP was set up to share the resources and knowledge accumulated by national nuclear regulatory authorities during their assessment of new reactor designs, with the aim of improving both the efficiency and the effectiveness of the process.
The MDEP is proceeding in three stages. In Stage 1 which began in 2005, nuclear regulators are using the technical data gathered during the certification of a reactor design in one country for its certification in another, thereby avoiding unnecessary duplication of work. The nuclear regulatory authorities of France and Finland are currently working with their American counterparts on the licensing of the evolutionary European pressurised water reactor (EPR) design.
The main objective of Stage 2 is to identify common regulatory practices and regulations that enhance the safety of new nuclear reactor designs. Ultimately this is expected to lead to a convergence of codes, standards and safety goals in the participating countries. To this end, two pilot projects have been launched. The first will investigate the licensing basis for new nuclear reactor designs, the scope of design safety reviews and overall safety goals. The second will examine regulatory oversight of components manufactured for nuclear reactors. The MDEP Stage 2 Policy Group met in September in Paris and elected Mr. André-Claude Lacoste, Director-General of the French Nuclear Safety Authority, to chair the Policy Group and selected the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to chair the Steering Technical Committee which met at the end of October. Stage 2 has the ambitious schedule to provide initial results within a year on sectors such as digital instrumentation and control, severe accident requirements and emergency core cooling system performance. The NEA will act as the Technical Secretariat for the MDEP during Stage 2, a decision endorsed by the NEA Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy during its October meeting in Paris.
During Stage 3 of the MDEP, which is a much longer term endeavour, the lessons learnt during the earlier stages will be used to facilitate the licensing of generation IV reactor designs. Currently, reactor concepts are being evaluated and different approaches are being considered.
Participation in the MDEP is a decision of its Policy Group and is restricted to countries that have, or are likely to have, firm commitments to build new nuclear reactors in the near future. There are currently ten participating countries in the MDEP, including seven NEA members(*): Canada*, China, Finland*, France*, Japan*, the Republic of Korea*, the Russian Federation, South Africa, the United Kingdom* and the United States*. The participating countries retain their sovereign authority over all licensing and regulatory decisions at all times.