Innovative digital technologies are transforming whole industries by improving their efficiency, safety and reliability. It is necessary for the nuclear sector to embrace these disruptive technologies and to accelerate nuclear innovation in order to ensure the continued enhancement of nuclear safety and competitiveness worldwide, while attracting the younger generation to nuclear careers.
In this context, together with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and the Korean Nuclear Society (KNS), the NEA is organising series of webinars to explore the use of disruptive technologies in nuclear applications and discuss the future shape of nuclear safety systems. The first event in the series was held on 16 March 2021 and focused on the bridge from the NEA Nuclear Innovation 2050 Initiative (NI2050) to Disruptive Technologies for Nuclear Safety Applications.
During his opening remarks, KAERI’s Senior Vice President of Nuclear Safety Research Jin-Ho Park highlighted that technology convergence is happening faster than ever. “Embracing innovative technologies such as the Internet of things (IoT), Artificial intelligence (AI), big data, advanced robotics etc. will provide important opportunities for the nuclear sector to enhance safety and improve public acceptance,” he said. Jaejoo Ha, President of the Korean Nuclear Society, agreed and added: “We are very much envious of other industries using innovative and disruptive technologies widely.”
The panellists then provided an overview of the NI2050 initiative and its goals, as well as the potential for disruptive technologies to drive nuclear innovation and their possible use in nuclear safety applications.
Over the past several years, the NI2050 initiative led to three main outcomes: (1) a compilation of ongoing nuclear R&D programme budgets in NEA member countries; (2) a better understanding of barriers to innovation in the nuclear sector; (3) a methodology to select priority topics and to develop corresponding roadmaps. Eleven roadmaps for nuclear priorities have been developed in order to foster innovation and thereby enable nuclear energy to better play its role in a low-carbon energy future.
The panellists agreed that for any innovation to be successful, stakeholders and especially regulators must be engaged early on in the innovation process. It is crucially important to bring together the end users, regulators laboratories, governments and technical support organisations in order to make sure each stakeholder understands very clearly how a particular technology can be used within the nuclear sector.
“Whatever technology that we are trying to promote and bring into the nuclear sector, there has to be a clear value proposition for each stakeholder group,” said NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV. “If we are going to be successful in deploying these technologies, we are going to have to have to line up all these interests and to have a common purpose.”
Following this first webinar to set the scene, the NEA will organise three more webinars in March and April 2021 on disruptive technologies for nuclear safety applications. This series of events will culminate with a high-level conference to be hosted by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) in Jeju, Korea at the end of 2021 or in early 2022.