The Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy reviews potential substantive actions that may be taken to improve gender balance in the nuclear sector, considers new initiatives to further NEA work in stakeholder engagement, and discusses a new NEA strategy related to the role of small modular reactors and Generation IV nuclear systems in achieving Net Zero

NEA Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy April 2022

The NEA’s ruling body, the Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy, strongly condemned Russian attacks, especially on Ukraine’s nuclear power infrastructure in a statement adopted at its 143rd biannual meeting in April 2022. “Considering the continued and extreme nuclear risk triggered by Russia’s unlawful invasion of Ukraine, the Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy is urging the Russian Government to immediately cease military operations in Ukraine and to guarantee the safety and security of Ukraine’s NPPs. We also urge Russia to withdraw in order to allow the restoration of regulatory oversight of nuclear facilities by the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine,” the statement said in part.

Meeting for the first time in session since 2019, the Steering Committee discussed the situation of the nuclear sector in Ukraine at length, including potential NEA actions to support the country. To support its members’ efforts to maintain an understanding of the state of nuclear safety and radiological protection in Ukraine the NEA continues to monitor and collect information from verifiable and reliable sources. Given the highly uncertain, ever-changing and very challenging situation it is to be expected that obtaining detailed information on a regular basis may not be possible, but available information is published on the NEA website on a regularly updated web page.

Other highlights of the Steering Committee’s April 2022 meeting included updates on NEA work on improving the gender balance in the nuclear sector, the creation of a high-level group on stakeholder engagement, trust building and social science. The Steering Committee noted the implementation of two new joint projects in the areas of nuclear safety and science: the implementation of the Studsvik Material Integrity Life Extension (SMILE) project and Implementation of Phase 2 of the Thermodynamic Characterisation of Fuel Debris and Fission Products Based on Scenario Analysis of Severe Accident Progression at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (TCOFF) project.

In the context of ongoing NEA work in the area, the Steering Committee also held a Strategic Briefing on the new NEA Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Strategy. Participants in the debate assessed the opportunities, and, more importantly, the main challenges that these technologies will have to overcome to achieve large-scale deployment and economic competiveness. As such, delegates discussed technology research, development and demonstration (RD&D) of SMRs – which technologies were being selected, what technical challenges remained and the role of international co-operation in meeting these challenges. Steering Committee delegates also examined the enabling conditions for SMR integration into the energy mix – including policy, regulatory, and legal aspects as well as supply chain challenges. The application of SMR technology and the prospective markets for its use is an ongoing focus for the Agency. Ongoing work discussed by the delegates includes market analysis, technical and non-technical requirements, as well as various power and non-power applications. These applications include: on- and off-grid power; industrial and district heat; desalination to produce potable water; hydrogen and synthetic fuel production; merchant marine shipping and propulsion.

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