The Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy, the highest decision making body at the Agency in which all 34 member countries are represented, met on 15-16 April 2021 to review the main aspects of the NEA’s programme of work and co-operative activities.
This meeting marked the final meeting of the Steering Committee during the tenure of OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. The Secretary-General opened the session with remarks highlighting the important role nuclear energy will play in the clean energy transition. “Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our message has been to build forward better in a way that protects the environment, public health and safeguards people’s wellbeing. Addressing the low-carbon transition is an essential component of these objectives,” Gurría noted. “Nuclear power today is the largest source of clean electricity in OECD countries. It contributes to curbing CO2 emissions globally by two billion tonnes per year.”
Among the highlights of the April meeting was a discussion on the Launch of the NEA Framework for Irradiation Experiments (FIDES) and its Joint Experimental Programmes (JEEPS). Launched by the NEA in response to the recent closures of irradiation research facilities such as the Halden Reactor in Norway, FIDES is a new multilateral effort that aims to preserve and strengthen the global fuel and materials experimental capacity to the benefit of a broad community of users from around the world.
The framework will support the experimental needs of nuclear safety regulators, technical support organisations, research institutions and industry by establishing a network of research facilities in order to perform high-priority experiments to verify the safety and performance of fuels and materials. It will thus help preserve the remaining facilities as well as the related experimental know-how for future generations.
The meeting agenda also included a progress report on the NEA Task Group on Improving the Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector. The group recently established a new sub-group focused on developing and implementing methodologies to collect data needed to inform potential policy recommendations. The participating member countries are currently working on an international data collection initiative which will gather baseline data on women’s participation in the nuclear energy sector. This work marks the start of a yearlong exercise to develop an international policy instrument for Steering Committee consideration.