Innovative digital technologies are transforming whole sectors of the economy, creating new ways of working, new ways of creating value, transforming whole industries and improving efficiency. Such technologies could have applications in the nuclear energy sector with similar benefits, but many within and outside the nuclear energy sector have questions about how to introduce – and how to regulate – digital innovation.
In this context, the NEA is organising a series of webinars, together with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and the Korean Nuclear Society (KNS), to explore the use of disruptive technologies in nuclear applications and discuss the future shape of nuclear safety systems. The first event focused on the bridge from the NEA Nuclear Innovation 2050 Initiative (NI2050) to Disruptive Technologies for Nuclear Safety Applications, while the second event provided an overview of emerging digital technologies and key factors affecting their adoption in the nuclear sector.
The third event in the series took place on 13 April 2021 and shed light on data-driven technologies. The discussion was centred on the prospects for data innovations such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, big data, wireless communications and the Internet of things. Panellists discussed the application of data-driven technologies for the improvement of nuclear operations and continued enhancement of nuclear safety. They also examined the lesson learnt from the implementation of these technologies in other industrial sectors, such as the steel sector.
There are many potential benefits and opportunities associated with increased use of data innovations in the nuclear sector, including enhanced improvements in efficiency and safety. But there are also unique challenges in applying these innovations to the nuclear sector. These include physical challenges such as having to operate in harsh radiological environments, as well as security challenges relating to limitations posed by the need for sovereign control of data management.
“This is a huge opportunity for nuclear, but it’s also a challenge. Because the nuclear sector is different from other industries,” said Director-General Magwood. “The price of innovation in the nuclear sector is different from the price of innovation in other sectors.” Diane Cameron, Head of the NEA Division of Nuclear Technology Development and Economics, added: “These higher costs perhaps limit to some extent the ability of the nuclear sector to implement and realise the benefits of these digital and data innovations. International collaboration and partnerships across the full breadth of the supply chain can help improve innovation conditions and foster efficiencies.”
The fourth and final webinar in the series will take place on 27 April 2021 and focus on cyber security. The series will culminate with a high-level conference to be hosted by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) in Korea at the end of 2021 or in early 2022.