Stakeholder engagement, training the next generation of nuclear professionals, progress in member countries toward final nuclear waste disposal, and new nuclear technologies - such as small modular reactors – that will play a key role in the global energy transition. The member countries of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) convened to discuss these and other topics during the biannual meeting of the Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy on 20-21 April in Paris. Chaired by Dr. Marta Žiaková from the Slovak Republic Nuclear Regulatory Authority, the Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy reviews the critical pillars of the NEA’s programme of work and co-operative activities on a biannual basis.
During the meeting, the Steering Committee also advanced its policy framework for improving gender balance in the nuclear energy industry. Following the publication of the NEA report Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector, NEA Gender Balance Task Group Chair Dr Fiona Rayment, Chief Science and Technology Officer at the United Kingdom National Nuclear Laboratory, highlighted the Group’s activities to attract more women into science and engineering fields relevant to the nuclear sector and support their career development — an increasing priority for many NEA member countries. The Committee explored a path forward for formal adoption of the Group’s recommendations.
Stakeholder engagement and trust is an important focus area for the NEA and the wider nuclear energy sector. The importance of increasing the effectiveness of stakeholder engagement has been addressed in various NEA work streams. In March, the Steering Committee approved the development of the High-level Group on Stakeholder Engagement, Trust, Transparency and Social Sciences. Greg Lamarre, NEA Head of the Division of Radiological Protection and Human Aspects of Nuclear Safety, provided an update on the next steps to establish the Group and proceed with its engagement with political and social scientists, scholars, non-governmental organisations and practitioners to improve stakeholder engagement in the nuclear technology sector.
The Steering Committee meeting was opened by NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV and Chair of the Steering Committee, Dr. Marta Žiaková, Slovak Republic.
One of the strengths of the NEA is the knowledge it helps to generate through the organisation of joint international research projects. Daniel Mathers, Vice Chair of the Nuclear Science Committee (NSC) and Director of Nuclear Innovation Research Office at the National Nuclear Laboratory (UK), provided an update on the Second NEA Framework for Irradiation Experiments (FIDES-II), which supports the fuel and material experimental needs of various stakeholders. Mr Mathers also updated the Committee on the NEA’s progress in global education initiatives, through the Nuclear Education, Skills and Technology (NEST) Framework and the Global Forum on Nuclear Education, Science, Technology and Policy.
Supporting the development of deep geological repositories (DGR) is an important area of work for the NEA. The Committee had the opportunity to exchange on the status of high-level waste repository developments following a presentation by NEA Head of Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning, Rebecca Tadesse, which included a roadmap for deep geological repository development (DGR) and the status in several member countries. The committee benefitted from the interventions from several member country experts in the field.
A number of other important topics were discussed during the meeting, including SMR readiness and the SMR Dashboard, preparedness for post-nuclear accident recovery, and Nuclear Innovation 2050. The Steering Committee will convene again in six months.