International Standardization of Nuclear Reactor Designs: the Way Forward
Head, International Regulatory Affairs, E.ON Kernkraft (Germany)
The concept of “International Standardization of Nuclear Reactor Designs” means that vendors could build their designs in every country without having to adapt it specifically to national safety requirements. Such standardization would have two main effects.
It would greatly facilitate nuclear new build worldwide by giving greater efficiency and certainty to the national licensing procedures; by taking into account the fact that vendors, and nowadays also utilities, are active across borders; by helping developing countries to establish their nuclear new build programmes; and by reducing the strain on human resources on both the regulators’ and the industry’s side.
The second valuable effect of standardization would be to further enhance safety by improving the exchange of construction and operating experience among a number of reactors belonging to fleets of the same design.
The World Nuclear Association’s CORDEL (Cooperation in Reactor Design Evaluation and Licensing) Group has developed a concept for implementation of international standardization of reactor designs. It has defined a number of steps to be taken by industry. At the same time, possibilities offered by national and international regulatory mechanisms would have to be fully made use of, and some changes in regulatory frameworks might be necessary. Some steps especially towards greater cooperation of regulators have already been taken; however, much still remains to be done.
The concept of deploying standardized reactor designs across a number of countries supposes an alignment and, if possible, harmonization of national safety standards; a streamlining of national licensing procedures, making them more efficient and predictable; and the willingness of national regulators to take into account licensing done in other countries. In the end, this should lead to a mutual acceptance of design approvals or, in a more distant future, even to a multinational design approval process.
All in all, the concept of standardized reactor designs raises many challenges, but these will have to be tackled.
© SFEN 2010