Category Archives: Infrastructure and methodologies for the. justification of nuclear power programmes

National technical capability development in nuclear power programmes

S. K. SHARMA, formerly of Atomic Energy Regulatory

Board of India, India

Abstract: This chapter briefly describes the need and the means for developing national technical capabilities for setting up the first nuclear power plant (NPP) in a country and its operation and management in the long term. Orientation training of staff in nuclear science and technology, including training in a research reactor, development of a technical core group and national participation in siting and construction of the NPP, is recommended for the initial phase. For the longer term, enhancement of expertise in areas such as reactor core management, in-service inspection and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel have been suggested. The importance of developing technical support organizations, developing national safety standards and participation in international cooperative activities is also touched upon.

Key words: technical capabilities for establishing first nuclear power plant (NPP) in a country; national participation in siting and construction of NPP; preparing for start of NPP operation; long-term operation and management of NPP.

7.1 Introduction

A nuclear power plant (NPP) is a complex machine which requires person­nel with expertise in a number of technical areas for its siting, construction, commissioning, operation and management in the longer term. Also, estab­lishing a NPP entails national commitment to safety for a very long period. That would include the NPP operating lifetime, its safe keeping after ces­sation of operation and the time required to carry out its decommissioning. This period could extend to 100 years or even more. It would be neither possible nor practicable to depend entirely on technical support from the reactor vendor or other agencies outside the country for such a long period. For this reason, it is not only desirable but absolutely essential that requisite national technical capabilities be initially developed for establishing the first NPP in the country and these be progressively augmented towards managing the nuclear power programme and its likely future expansion.

Establishing the foundation for technical development and using a research reactor as stepping stone are discussed in Section 7.2. Section 7.3

describes the need for obtaining a good understanding of the NPP design in the operating organization, the regulatory body and the technical support organizations. Sections 7.4 and 7.5 present the advantages of national par­ticipation in siting and in design, equipment manufacture and construction of the NPP respectively. Technical capabilities required for commissioning the NPP and for its safe and efficient operation are described in Sections 7.6 and 7.7 respectively. Areas in which building of national technical com­petence for long-term operation of the NPP and for future expansion of nuclear power programme in the country is necessary are detailed in Section 7.8. Decommissioning aspects are covered in Section 7.9 and some sources of further information on the topics of the chapter are listed in Section 7.10.

The justification process

Any justification exercise, whether relating to a simple new medical or radiation application, a new nuclear power programme or any other nuclear installation or relevant activity, should be undertaken within a formal regu­latory process. Such a process will provide a list of projects which can be submitted for justification, define the corresponding justification authority, incorporate guides for submitting the different types of justification, provide for effective stakeholder participation and define the legal value and scope of any decision taken.

The justification principle is included in most regulatory requirements concerning radiation protection but has only been developed for radiation applications in some countries, and only in the United Kingdom have regu­lations been fully developed for justification of nuclear power installations. In 2004, new regulations were enacted to develop the justification principle (UK, 2004). These regulations included 27 articles and four schedules; among other legal aspects, they define those installations and practices that should undergo a justification request, the process for requesting justifica­tion, the authorization authority and public participation in the process.

In March 2008, the UK Secretary of State for the then Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), in consultation with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), issued a guidance document (UK, 2008) specifically aimed at applicants wishing to seek a decision under the justification regulations to justify new nuclear power. That guidance sets out the process for submitting applica­tions and outlines the decision-making process for such justification. The guidance note defines justification as ‘a high-level assessment to assess the benefits and any health detriment associated with a particular class or type of nuclear practice’. It clearly indicates that ‘it does not, by itself, authorise the construction or operation of any particular plant or activity, nor does it replace the detailed safety, security and environmental assessments carried out by the nuclear regulators’.

The BERR interpretation of justification requires an assessment of the potential radiological health detriments associated with the practice, but also other potential detriments that could be significant when considered against the benefit derived from the practice. Following this guidance, the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) submitted to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) — considered to be the justification authority in this particular case — an application for justification of new nuclear power stations (NIA, 2008), with reference to the two designs (the AP1000 from WEC, and the EPR from AREVA) which, at that time, had successfully completed Step 2 of the Generic Design Assessment (GDA). This subject is developed further in Appendix 1.

The responsibility for preparing, drafting and submitting an application for justification may lie with an ad hoc group of specialists, with any industry or association of industries, or with any licensee responsible for a given installation. Subjects to be justified may include a national nuclear power programme, a cluster of nuclear power designs, a nuclear research centre (including research reactors), a fuel cycle management policy, or the trans­portation of nuclear materials and radioactive waste.

In all cases, there should be a justification authority. Indeed, the nature and aims of the justification principle require the existence of a justification authority with the capacity to decide whether a given request should be considered justified. The rank of such an authority may vary in accordance with the magnitude and the nature of the issue to be justified. The decision to introduce a nuclear power programme for the first time, or to construct large installations, should lie under the authority of the head of government or a suitable minister of state, generally under parliamentary control. The decision to build a final repository for long-life high-level waste should also be the decision of the government. In both cases, the basis for the decision should be a justification exercise produced by national experts and incor­porating external advisers, when needed.

The decision to enlarge the service life of operating nuclear power plants beyond the life assigned in the original design should be taken by a minister of state or similar authority responsible for energy. A justification report should be prepared and submitted by the plant owner/operator to the jus­tification authority. In this particular case, the nuclear regulatory organiza­tion has to verify that such longer-term operation will maintain the design basis, and that the ageing process can be managed. The justification will not impede or impair the safety evaluation of individual plants by the regula­tory authority; it simply ensures that such types of request are considered properly.

The process should be open to stakeholder involvement through a formal process, as explained by the IAEA International Nuclear Safety Group (INSAG) (INSAG, 2006). The intensity and coverage of stakeholder par­ticipation may vary considerably: it may cover the whole country, and even neighbouring countries, such as when considering embarking on a new nuclear power programme or deciding the location of a final waste reposi­tory. It could be limited to a particular state or province and their neigh­bours, as in the case of the construction of a new nuclear installation, or be limited to the neighbourhood and the area of influence of an existing instal­lation. But whatever the case, there should be a well-established procedure for stakeholder intervention, and the justification authority should make its decision after a careful analysis of all their submissions.

A justification decision only implies that the issue requested is acceptable and can be put into practice, for example that a proposed nuclear power programme can be conducted within the limits and conditions stated in the decision, and that nuclear installations and relevant activities are acceptable as described. The decision is not a licence and does not compromise any regulatory decision, nor the regulatory process itself. One of its main values resides in the fact that the decision takes into account other types of con­sideration beyond nuclear safety and security, and radiological protection, and that it has considered the opinion of society at large.


The WWER-1000 is a four-loop pressurized water-cooled reactor that incorporates active and passive safety systems, and partly adapts to Western standards the substantial design and operating experience accumulated in the Russian Federation in the last 50 years. It is currently operating in the Russian Federation and under construction in China, India and Iran. The WWER-1200 is a scaled-up version of the WWER-1000. Like its predeces­sor, it is a four-loop design with horizontal steam generators, which have a track record of providing the longest operating life. The WWER-1200 also includes active and passive safety systems, a double containment and severe accident mitigation systems, such as a core catcher. Both the WWER-1000 and WWER-1200 cores use the characteristic hexagonal fuel assemblies (as opposed to the traditional square ones used by all other water-cooled reactor designs) and would allow for the possibility of using MOX fuel. It is currently under construction in the Russian Federation and planned for construction in Bulgaria. Since there are some WWER-1000 and WWER — 1200 units currently in operation or under construction, this design has a proven construction schedule, as well as some operating experience.

The following designs, also ordered alphabetically, are also evolutionary concepts but their current stage of development indicates that they would

only be available for deployment in the middle-term. The detailed technical data for all these designs can be found in ARIS (IAEA, 2010).

Role of the safety standards authority (the tribunal)

The safety standards authority — in the Canadian case the Nuclear Safety Commission — carries the authority delegated from the government (and ultimately from the people) to administer the Nuclear Safety and Control Act (CNSC, 2000). This Act grants very broad powers to make regulations for the administration of the Act. Up until recently, the CNSC chose to write only general regulations; specific regulatory requirements were applied through the licensing process — and so were largely determined by the regu­latory staff.

In general, the role of the tribunal is to determine the rules under which radioactive materials and processes must be managed in Canada. With regard to any activity involving ionizing radiation, they sanction the game; that is, they permit the activity to proceed provided that the rules are followed. Their ultimate power is to stop the activity if the rules are violated.

Periodic testing of safety-related systems

All components and systems that are important to safety are tested at regular intervals, with the time between tests depending on the specific characteristics of the component. (In practice, essentially all plant systems are important to safety to some degree.) These data are added to the exist­ing probabilistic safety assessment model to keep it up to date and to provide a current estimate of the component, subsystem, and overall plant systems reliability to respond to operational and safety demands. In a very real sense, the testing and maintenance activities help to keep the whole plant in ‘good as new’ condition over its whole operating life.

International standards

Pursuant to its Statute, the IAEA has established a body of standards in the fields of radiation safety, radioactive materials transport safety, radioac­tive waste safety, and nuclear safety. The standards follow a common general pattern — fundamental principles and a set of mandatory requirements — as follows:

1. Safety Fundamentals, stating basic objectives, concepts and principles

2. Safety Requirements, stating basic requirements, which must be fulfilled in the case of particular activities or applications

3. Safety Guides, containing recommendations related to the fulfilment of the basic requirements stated in the Standards.

Safety Fundamentals and Safety Requirements require the approval of government delegates at the IAEA’s Board of Governors. Safety Guides are issued under the authority of the IAEA’s Director General. A separate series of documents, the Safety Reports, gives examples and detailed descriptions of methods that can be applied in implementing the Standards.

The Safety Fundamentals (IAEA, 2006b) is the policy document of the IAEA safety standards, stating the basic objectives, concepts and principles involved in ensuring protection and safety in the development and applica­tion of atomic energy for peaceful purposes. They thereby provide the rationale for such activities having to fulfil certain requirements but do not state what those requirements are or provide technical details and generally do not discuss the application of principles. The formulation of some of the international Fundamental Safety Principles is based on the radiation pro­tection principles. Currently there are 10 Fundamental Safety Principles, namely responsibility for safety; role of government; leadership and man­agement for safety; justification of facilities and activities; optimization of protection; limitation of risks to individuals; protection of present and future generations; prevention of accidents; emergency preparedness and response; and protective actions to reduce existing or unregulated radiation risks. Four of them were extracted from the radiation protection principles, and are formulated as follows: justification of facilities and activities (facili­ties and activities that give rise to radiation risks must yield an overall benefit); optimization of protection (protection must be optimized to provide the highest level of safety that can reasonably be achieved); limita­tion of risks to individuals (measures for controlling radiation risks must ensure that no individual bears an unacceptable risk of harm); and protec­tion of present and future generations (people and the environment, present and future, must be protected against radiation risks). The current Fundamentals are co-sponsored by six international organizations. They explain the fundamental basis for the approaches to protection and safety for those at senior levels in government and regulatory bodies, and for NPP operators, who may not be specialists in radiation protection and safety but who have decision-making responsibilities in such matters.

The Safety Requirements encompass the basic requirements that must be satisfied to ensure safety for particular activities or application areas. These requirements are governed by the basic objectives, concepts and principles presented in the Safety Fundamentals. The publications in this category do not present recommendations on, or explanations of, how to meet the requirements. The written style used in the Safety Requirements accords with that of regulatory documents since the requirements established may be adopted by Member States, at their own discretion, for use in national regulations. Regulatory requirements are expressed as ‘shall’ statements, are self-standing and do not cite standards of other organizations over which the IAEA has no control. They also are published in all official lan­guages of the IAEA.

The Safety Guides encompass recommendations, based on international experience, of measures to ensure the observance of the Safety Requirements. Recommendations in the Safety Guides are expressed as ‘should’ state­ments and are issued under the authority of the Director General. A large number of Safety Guides support the Safety Requirements.

Non-nuclear-weapon states as stewards of nuclear material and technologies

Of particular safeguards interest and importance to NNWS are the treaty provisions contained in Articles II, III, IV and VI of the NPT.10 For simpli­fication purposes, by its sovereign decision to accede to the NPT, all NNWS Parties to the Treaty commit not to directly or indirectly receive, manufac­ture or otherwise acquire any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, including receiving assistance in the development and manufactur­ing of such devices.11 Additionally, all NNWS Parties to the NPT are legally bound to accept safeguards on all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities within the territory of such State, under its jurisdiction, or carried out under its control anywhere in accordance with a safeguards agreement to be negotiated and concluded with the IAEA (in accordance with the Statute of the IAEA and the IAEA’s safeguards system).12 These comprehensive safeguards agreements (CSA) are mod­elled on the standard agreement INFCIRC/153 (Corrected) published in IAEA (1972).

In exchange for the above commitments, all States party to the NPT affirm that the principle benefits of peaceful application of nuclear technol­ogy is an ‘inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty’13, and that the States shall undertake negotiations on effective measures for nuclear arms reductions with the goal of eliminating all nuclear weapons (i. e., nuclear disarmament).14

8 The CANWFZ Treaty, which entered into force on 21 March 2009, obligated that ‘Each Party undertakes. . . to conclude with the IAEA and bring into force, if it has not already done so, an agreement for the application of safeguards in accordance with the NPT (INFCIRC/153 (Corr.)), and an additional protocol (INFCIRC/540 (Corr.))’.

9 The Rarotonga Treaty, which entered into force on 11 December 1986, obligated that ‘The agreement referred to in paragraph 1 shall be, or shall be equivalent in its scope and effect to, an agreement required in connection with the NPT on the basis of the material reproduced in document INFCIRC/153 (Corrected) of the IAEA. Each Party shall take all appropriate steps to ensure that such an agreement is in force. . .’.

10 The aforementioned provisions and their relevance to the implementation of safeguards in a NNWS are covered in detail in Section 13.4, Non-proliferation responsibilities.

11 Ref. Article II of the NPT.

12 Ref. Article III of the NPT.

13 Ref. Article IV of the NPT.

14 Ref. Article VI of the NPT.

Spent fuel transport

The transport of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste is regulated by national authorities and based on the IAEA transport recommendations


14.7 Spent fuel storage pools in rock chambers at the Swedish Central Interim Storage Facility, CLAB, at Oskarshamn, Sweden (© SKB).

(IAEA, 2009c). For spent nuclear fuel so-called type B packages will be needed, that can sustain drops, fires and submersion in water (more details of these tests are given in the transport recommendations). A transport cask for spent fuel is typically a cylinder about 5 m long and 1-2 m in diameter. It is designed to provide adequate shielding against gamma and neutron radiation, to control criticality and to remain tight in case of postulated accidents. The weight is around 50-100 tonnes (Fig. 14.8). There is ample experience of spent fuel shipments from nuclear power plants to reprocess­ing plants or to central storage facilities (more than 100,000 tonnes). Most transports of spent fuel have been made by rail or ship, but also shorter transports on normal roads have been made. Transports have been made within countries such as France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the USA and also across borders, e. g. from Finland and Bulgaria to Russia, and from Japan and Germany to France and the United Kingdom.

Social impacts and public perception of nuclear power

F. BAZILE, CEA, France

Abstract: Social impacts of nuclear power are significant but difficult to quantify, as there is no consensus on a method. The first part of this chapter presents a review of the advantages and drawbacks of nuclear power compared to other power generation sources, as they have been assessed in recent publications. The second part presents public perceptions of nuclear power and tries to identify levers for a better acceptance. Beyond specific national issues, two main points can be identified. First, there is a link between education level, knowledge of energy matters and acceptance of nuclear power; in particular, knowledge of its potential contribution to a low-carbon energy mix, and an awareness of the physical limits of renewable energies (such as solar and wind) contribute to an acceptance of nuclear power. Second, the more concrete a knowledge of nuclear power people have, for example by living in the vicinity of a nuclear plant, the more they accept it, as its economic benefits and safe operation are better understood.

Key words: energy policy, economics, public perception of risk, safety, externalities, low-carbon energy mix, Chernobyl, radioactive waste management, opinion surveys, stakeholder involvement, public debate, political decision.

16.1 Introduction

The social impacts of choosing nuclear power have to be assessed from a long-term perspective, i. e. by a minimum of a century, or much more if one takes into account waste management. Fifteen years are needed between the decision to launch a nuclear build and the beginning of operation, with those 15 years including time to undertake all the political work to establish the infrastructure (such as the creation of a regulatory authority and the promulgation of an institutional and legal framework). The lifespan of operation can be about 50-60 years, perhaps even more with future designs, depending on the safety rules acknowledged in each country. Dismantling and decommissioning require several decades, depending on technologies and on the availability of waste management facilities. Whatever the length of time involved, choosing to include nuclear power in a country’s energy mix is a political commitment and not just a technical decision.

Sustainable development is widely recognized, at an international level, as a relevant objective of energy policies. And it is agreed that three inter­related dimensions — economy, environment and social — need to be taken into account, and that there needs to be an equilibrium between present and future generations. Nuclear choice should be assessed from this per­spective, since it has significant impacts on all these dimensions.

But the benefits resulting from choosing nuclear power are not always, or spontaneously, evident to the public at large. Indeed, nuclear energy often has a negative visibility, since many people perceive and overestimate the risk of major accidents (referring to Chernobyl or to Fukushima), the terrorist risk and uncertainties about waste management, and, moreover, because of the ‘original sin’ of nuclear technology — the nuclear bomb — and the risk of proliferation.

The first part of this chapter exposes some of the main issues regarding the social impacts of nuclear power, even if they are difficult to quantify and therefore possibly controversial. The second part focuses on public perception of nuclear power, including risk perception, as shown by opinion polls and qualitative surveys.

Environmental regulators

The body that is responsible for regulating environmental impacts, and its interaction with the body with overall responsibility for nuclear safety, is an important element of a developed nuclear institutional framework. The bodies charged with primary responsibility for regulating environmental impacts in the UK are the Environment Agency (EA) in England and Wales and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency in Scotland. Under the Environmental Act 1995 (their general duties and functions are set out in Sections 4-8), the EA is vested with primary responsibility, in relation to specified legislation (see Section 5(5)), including the Radioactive Substances Act 1993 (RSA 1993), Water Resources Act 1991 (WRA 1991) and the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 (the ‘Permitting Regulations 2010’), to use their powers ‘for the purpose of preventing or minimising, or remedying or mitigating the effects of, pollu­tion of the environment’ (Section 5(1)). The operators of nuclear power plants will require a variety of different environmental permits from the EA, and the EA will monitor their activities (and impose reporting require­ments) to ensure that they are complying with their permit conditions. The legislation empowers the EA to ensure compliance by providing them with the power to bring enforcement actions (see Part 4 of the Permitting Regulations 2010) against non-compliant operators, and to bring a halt to site operations by the revocation of permits where there have been serious or serial breaches (see Annex 1 of the EA’s ‘Submission to DTI — Pre­Licensing Assessments of New Nuclear Power Stations’ for a general over­view of the EA’s regulatory responsibilities in relation to nuclear power).