The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) is the latest nuclear regulatory body to join the Multinational Design Evaluation Programme (MDEP). It participated in its first MDEP meeting as a new member on the occasion of the 21-23 May 2013 meeting of the MDEP Steering Technical Committee which was held in Helsinki, Finland.
The SSM received an application from Vattenfall in July 2012 to build one or two units to replace existing reactors that are due to shut down after close to 50 years of operation. Because Sweden has not licensed a new reactor since 1985, the SSM is particularly interested in benefiting from the experience and knowledge base of member country regulators that are already actively involved in the licensing process. According to Mr. Lennart Carlsson, Director of Nuclear Power Plant Safety at the SSM, "The process is starting now in Sweden, and our goal is to contribute to several MDEP design-specific and issue-specific working groups, including those on the EPR and the AP1000, as well as on digital instrumentation and control."
Dr. Allison M. Macfarlane, MDEP Policy Group Chair and Chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), welcomed SSM's accession to the MDEP as a full member and its active participation in the working groups.
Mr. Luis E. Echávarri, Director-General of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), which acts as the Technical Secretariat for the MDEP, considers Sweden's membership in the MDEP as a mutually beneficial and positive step, noting in particular that, "Sweden is well-known for its contribution to high levels of nuclear safety, and its decades of experience in this area will further reinforce the work of the programme."
Sweden's first commercial reactor came online in 1971. It currently has ten operational nuclear power reactors providing about 38% of its electricity. Sweden also has a nuclear fuel fabrication plant, an interim spent fuel storage facility and an operational waste disposal facility for short-lived, low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste. The Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB) has applied for a licence to construct a spent nuclear fuel repository at Forsmark in the municipality of Östhammar for operation after 2020.
The Multinational Design Evaluation Programme (MDEP) was launched in 2006 by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) with the aim of developing innovative approaches to leverage the resources and knowledge of national regulatory authorities reviewing new reactor designs. The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) acts as the Technical Secretariat for the MDEP. The International Atomic Energy Agency participates in many of the MDEP activities, including the harmonisation efforts.
The full MDEP membership includes national regulatory authorities from Canada, China, Finland, France, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, South Africa, the United Kingdom, the United States and now Sweden. The nuclear regulator of the United Arab Emirates is an associate member.
The MDEP pools the resources of these nuclear regulatory authorities for the purpose of 1) co-operating on safety reviews of designs of nuclear reactors that are under construction and undergoing licensing in several countries, and 2) exploring opportunities and potential for harmonisation of regulatory requirements and practices. It also produces reports and guidance documents that are shared internationally beyond the MDEP membership (see related links below).
The MDEP is a unique forum with growing influence on new nuclear reactor projects.