By Irena Chatzis, IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy
The IAEA today marked 20 years of the IAEA International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO), with participants at a virtual side event on the margins of the 64th IAEA General Conference. The event highlighted past INPRO successes and looked ahead to a future of support to countries facing changing energy needs and requiring innovative technologies.
Established in 2000, INPRO is a key vehicle for international cooperation on nuclear energy sustainability, long term strategies and institutional and technical innovations. It provides a forum for experts and policy makers from industrialized and developing countries to cooperate on issues that are important for the sustainable planning, development and deployment of nuclear energy.
“I believe that nuclear power has a bright future. There is growing recognition around the world that it can make an important contribution to combatting climate change, while helping countries to secure clean, reliable, round-the-clock electricity to power their economies,” IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said when opening the event. “Technological innovation will be vital in making that happen.”
The activities of INPRO, whose membership includes 41 countries and the European Commission, cover energy scenarios, innovations, sustainability assessment and strategies, and dialogue and outreach. INPRO examines how global cooperation can facilitate the transition to sustainable nuclear energy and develop roadmaps to a more sustainable future.
INPRO’s first coordinator, Juergen Kupitz said the project was born when the global nuclear community identified innovation as the key ingredient to nuclear power meeting the world’s growing demand for sustainable energy. While several countries had been pursuing innovation in nuclear energy, “it soon became clear that more support for international information exchange and cooperation was needed for those efforts to gain ground,” he added.
INPRO has undertaken several collaborative projects to address issues such as enhanced safety, cooperation on research into the disposal or reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and waste management for innovative nuclear energy systems. INPRO has developed national, regional and global sustainable nuclear energy scenarios, and its scientific and technical analysis tools can be used for scenario modelling, decision analysis and road-mapping to investigate enhanced nuclear energy sustainability. Nuclear energy sustainability assessments using the INPRO methodology assist national energy planners in making decisions about long-term nuclear energy strategies.
Twenty years on, INPRO is looking to the future with several countries interested in joining the project, including newcomers to nuclear energy.
“As Ghana enters the Phase 2 in developing its nuclear power programme, joining INPRO is an opportunity to interact with a bigger platform for experience exchange,” said Director-General of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, Benjamin J.B. Nyarko. “We also expect to benefit from the use of analytical tools for the development of a long-term energy strategy and participate in collaborative projects related to safety, innovative reactor concepts, waste generation and storage.”
INPRO uses Dialogue Forums to build partnerships on a variety of topics, including the deployment of small and medium sized or modular reactors (SMRs), innovative reactor concepts, nuclear supply chains and the non-electric applications of nuclear energy, such as district heating or seawater desalination. Its partners also include other international organizations, such as the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), a framework for international cooperation in research and development for the next generation of nuclear energy systems.
“We have developed several methodologies together on proliferation resistance and physical protection, economic analyses and review of synergies and complementation of safety design and requirements, to mention a few,” said Chairman of the GIF Policy Group, Hideki Kamide. “Jointly organized workshops and meetings contribute to GIF activities on developments of Gen-IV reactor systems and to a better coordination between the two organizations.”
Over the past 20 years, INPRO has created a substantial knowledge pool for researchers, designers, safety authorities and governments to get updated and balanced information about necessary steps towards sustainable nuclear energy. Its tools and methodologies for nuclear energy scenario modelling and sustainability assessments, case studies, collaborative projects and e-learning are available via the IAEA web site.