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…Releases New Recommendations On SMRs From The SMR Regulators’ Forum

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By Elodie Broussard

Increasing access to electricity and powering economies while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions are central goals of many governments, and advanced nuclear power reactor designs, including small modular reactors (SMRs), can play a crucial role in meeting these goals. However, novel approaches to their design and deployment pose challenges to the existing regulatory framework.

Although the IAEA safety standards – which serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation – can generally be applied to SMRs, experts from the SMR Regulators’ Forum are working on a tailor-made solution to help national authorities regulate this new class of nuclear power reactors.

Their new safety recommendations for SMRs are now available online, following a meeting of experts working on the development of national standards specific to SMRs. This new generation of nuclear power reactors, with output of no more than 300 MW(e) per unit, offers the possibility of flexible supply, including in combination with renewables, while being deployable either as single or multi-module plant.

“The SMR Regulators’ Forum considers that deployment of SMRs requires a flexible regulatory framework to address the specific safety challenges related to novel aspects of proposed designs,” said Associate Nuclear Safety Officer at the IAEA, Camille Scotto De Cesar, who works with Forum members. “It has published new recommendations on safety implications that arise from the use of modularity and compactness of SMRs and on the SMR lifecycle licensing framework.”

Hosted by the IAEA, the SMR Regulators’ Forum is an international group of regulators working on the challenges of regulating the novel designs of SMRs. Founded in March 2015, the Forum gathers nine countries and other stakeholders sharing SMR regulatory knowledge and experience. Together, they identify and propose solutions to common safety issues that may challenge regulatory reviews associated with SMRs.

“The work of the SMR Regulators’ Forum allows us to better understand the current state of practice and challenges in licensing of SMRs,” said Director of Nuclear Installation Safety Division at the IAEA, Greg Rzentkowski. “Although currently we have no plans to develop specific safety standards for SMRs, we will use these insights in the establishment of our holistic, technology neutral, framework for safety of nuclear installations, which also applies to novel designs, to help harmonize international approaches by using the IAEA safety standards.” To be effective, the regulators must be prepared to recalibrate the current model of regulations by increasing reliance on risk and performance insights, he added.

We have asked Karine Herviou, Director at the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN, France) and member of the Forum, to present these latest recommendations.

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