Revised governance needed for nuclear growth

15 October 2013

Global governance of nuclear energy should evolve from a 'bottom-up' approach and be designed to facilitate growth of the energy source, said industry at the World Energy Congress in Daegu, Korea.

A session at the conference was dedicated to the topic: 'Effective international governance of nuclear' in the context of calls for increased safety oversight after the Fukushima accident. Panellists representing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Turkish government, the World Nuclear Association (WNA), EDF and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) took part.

Turkish minister for energy and natural resources Hasan Mercan called for legally binding rules on nuclear safety interpreted by a global authority. His words echoed those of a joint article by World Energy Council chairman Pierre Gadonneix and Hwan-eik Cho, president and CEO of Korea Electric Power Corporation and leader of the international team that organized the conference.

However, IAEA head Yukiya Amano said there had been little appetite for such a scheme among IAEA member states in the discussions that followed the Fukushima accident. Instead, the IAEA had been directed to carry out a Nuclear Safety Action Plan, which remained its priority. Amano said that he was "not against" the idea of a global system, but he personally would choose to work from the existing web of nuclear cooperation. This sees countries cooperate on joint projects through the IAEA, while nuclear operators cooperate through WANO for specifics of operational safety.

For EDF, Didier Cordero explained its program of experience sharing and constant improvement across its fleet of 58 reactors. Ultimate responsibility for nuclear safety always rests with the operator, panellists agreed, rather than any regulator, state or international body.

One gap pointed out by WANO chairman Jacques Regaldo was global cooperation among nuclear safety regulators. Some regional bodies exist but there is no global forum where they may exchange experience. He noted that insufficient independence of some regulators from government was one possible explanation for this.

Reactor licensing

Further cooperation on regulation should result in benefits such as more efficient licensing of new reactor designs, said WNA director general Agneta Rising, "so that reactor vendors need not extensively rework the same information and documentation because different national regulators have different processes for design approval." The WNA's CORDEL (Cooperation in Reactor Design Evaluation and Licensing) working group is industry's contribution towards this goal.

"We need better, smarter governance - that will promote safe operation and help achieve the necessary expansion of nuclear generation," said Rising. "Nuclear energy is essential for meeting the world's need for affordable, reliable and clean energy."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News