For countries looking to introduce nuclear power or expand their programmes, selecting the most suitable reactor technology can be a daunting process. Everything from site selection and performance requirements to economics and waste management must be taken into consideration and not every country arrives at the same conclusion. A new suite of support tools developed by the IAEA aims to make this easier.
The newly updated publication “Nuclear Reactor Technology Assessment for Near Term Deployment, part of the Nuclear Energy Series, refines the IAEA’s methodology for nuclear reactor technology assessment (RTA) used to make informed decisions on the most appropriate nuclear power plant designs. It lays out the obligations and responsibilities integral to making an informed assessment.
Complementary to the updated publication, the IAEA has also released a reactor technology assessment IT Toolkit and an eLearning module. The module includes an introduction to RTA, which is applicable to all reactor technology lines and also comprises non-electric applications. To help overcome possible technical misunderstandings between the technology vendor and the assessor, a new annex in the publication also provides details of potential information to be requested from vendors.
“Reactor technologies are extremely complex, and come in so many shapes and sizes for all sorts of different needs, whether electrical or non-electrical,” said Tatjana Jevremovic, Team Leader and Project Manager for Water Cooled Reactor Technology Development at the IAEA. “This new suite of tools can facilitate the process for countries seeking to determine which technology might be a best fit for them.”
Recent technological advances are incorporated into the new edition of the publication, with elements relevant to small modular reactors (SMRs), nuclear-renewable hybrid energy systems and non-electric applications, such as district heating and hydrogen production. The latest edition also provides examples of how to apply the methodology in an informed and accurate way.
RTA is a decision-making methodology based on numerous technical considerations related to nuclear technology, translated into key elements with subsets of key topics. The revised publication clarifies, with examples, the meaning and scope of these elements and topics in real-world applications.
“Since the original 2013 publication, more frequent and comprehensive RTA training workshops have been conducted,” said Hadid Subki, the IAEA’s Technical Lead and Project Manager for SMR Technology Development. “These workshops generated practical lessons learned that have been incorporated into this revision.”
“In the publication’s new annex, multi-level explanations are embedded in various examples showing how to request more information from technology vendors,” explained Jevremovic. “Such information helps countries make informed evaluations of reactor technologies.”
RTA’s technology-neutral, systematic approach evaluates the technical merits of the various nuclear power plant technologies available on the market or expected to be commercialized in the near future. RTA fits within the IAEA’s Milestones Approach – a three-phase method providing advice and capacity building to enable countries to develop a national infrastructure for a nuclear power programme. Currently, around 30 countries are considering, planning or actively working to include nuclear in their energy mix as a way to achieve climate goals and further sustainable development.
The updated publication and new tools will be used next year at an IAEA training workshop for nuclear newcomer countries, to be held in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Further workshops and training courses on RTA are planned for 2023 in Egypt and at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna.