Above: INPRO supports member states in developing assessment and analysis competencies to support decisions on the future use of nuclear energy

The International Atomic Energy Agency established the International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors & Fuel Cycles, (INPRO) in 2000 to help ensure that nuclear energy remains available to contribute to meeting global energy needs until the end of the 21st century and beyond. Carolynn Scherer, Section Head (INPRO) at IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Power in the Department of Nuclear Energy tells NEI about INPRO’s achievements.

NEI: Can you please describe what INPRO does and its aims?

CS: INPRO is a membership-based project. Representatives of INPRO members form the INPRO Steering Committee (SC) that directly guides the project’s activities. INPRO’s membership currently consists of 44 Members – 43 IAEA member states and the European Commission (EC).

The INPRO programme supports member states in their long-term planning for deploying sustainable nuclear energy. It provides direct support related to advanced and innovative nuclear energy system scenario modelling, analysis, and sustainability assessment using the INPRO methodology and through facilitating dialogue, cooperation and collaboration among member states in their respective roles as nuclear energy technology developers, suppliers and customers.

The INPRO activities consider international and national actions, which could result in innovations in nuclear reactors, fuel cycles and institutional approaches, to achieve viable and sustainable nuclear energy systems. INPRO activities include modelling of nuclear energy scenarios and fuel cycles at national, regional and global levels. INPRO supports member states in their strategic energy planning and decision making to achieve sustainable nuclear energy.

NEI: How does INPRO ensure sustainability of nuclear energy systems?

CS: The INPRO programme developed a methodology to assess the sustainability of a nuclear energy system that aligns with the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. The methodology development was over 20 years and had contributions from over 300 international experts. The methodology looks at sustainability in six key areas which are: economics, environment, safety, waste management, proliferation resistance, and infrastructure. The INPRO methodology is comprehensively covering the lifecycle of the nuclear energy system over a century.

The INPRO methodology supports member states with the methods, analysis and modelling tools. These tools support members in developing and investigating global and regional nuclear energy scenarios and how collaborations among different States and organisations can facilitate the transition to globally sustainable nuclear energy systems and develop roadmaps to a more sustainable future.

The INPRO activities also support collaborative projects including the examination of innovative nuclear reactor concepts in all methodology areas to show improvements over past concepts. The methodology helps identify gaps that need to be addressed to deploy a sustainable nuclear energy system. These projects show effectiveness of international cooperation in covering gaps for innovative systems. These activities help support public acceptance of innovative systems.

NEI: How does INPRO address environmental issues and the role of nuclear energy in adaptation to climate change?

CS: Concerns over energy resource availability, climate change, and energy security suggest an important role for nuclear power in supplying energy in the 21st century. Nuclear energy along with renewables is recognised as an option to effectively address these issues. Nuclear energy is an important contributor to global clean energy supply, and existing and planned nuclear capacity will continue to play a role in meeting clean energy goals in the future. At the same time, innovative applications of nuclear technologies and advanced nuclear energy systems could yield solutions that will accelerate the global clean energy transition in both the electric and non-electric sectors.

The INPRO methodology addresses environmental concerns in the areas of resource depletion and the effect of stressors on the environment. When gaps are identified in these areas they can be addressed prior to deployment, during design phases. Additionally, INPRO has collaborative projects to address these global concerns.

NEI: INPRO is acknowledged for its inter-disciplinary considerations. What is new in this area?

CS: INPRO is an Agency-wide project, with contributions from all relevant IAEA Departments. The INPRO programme provides an international venue for member states’ guidance, for policy coordination and coordination with other international organisations and initiatives, bringing together technology holders and users to exchange ideas and information on long-range nuclear and other innovative energy systems. INPRO addresses strategies, global energy scenarios, and related technical and institutional innovations.

New collaborative projects are in the areas of transportable small modular reactors, fusion systems, and nuclear-hydrogen systems looking at legal and institutional aspects along with drivers and impediments for future deployment. For example, as a joint effort by the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Energy, the FRAMES (FRAmework for Modelling Electricity Systems) tool supports member state efforts in assessing how nuclear and other non-fossil generation of electricity can work together in an optimised and effective manner to build a future clean energy system with satisfactory flexibility.

The Dialogue and Outreach Task serves as a catalyst to encourage international cooperation through exchange of information among all involved stakeholders. Outreach to other international programmes and initiatives and INPRO training activities on nuclear technology innovations and sustainability, is central to achieving the stated objectives of INPRO.

NEI: What kind of services does INPRO provide to its member states?

CS: Just this year, INPRO released the INPRO Advisory Service for member states. The INPRO members benefit from the following:

  • International cooperation facilitated by INPRO.
  • INPRO methodology, analysis and modelling tools, models and simulators, publications, and expertise.
  • Participation in the INPRO Dialogue Forums and in collaborative projects.
  • Results and findings of INPRO studies.
  • Planning of activities and bringing national expertise to the project through their representative in the INPRO Steering Committee.

NEI: What analytical services does INPRO provide?

CS: The INPRO methodology developed a set of basic principles, user requirements and criteria, together with an assessment method, which constitute the INPRO methodology, for the evaluation of a national or global nuclear energy system with regard to its long-term sustainability.

The INPRO methodology covers the major topical areas listed in the UN Brundtland Commission Report, economical, societal, political-institutional, and environmental, that are also relevant to the long-term sustainable development goals. INPRO applied these concepts to evaluating the sustainability of nuclear energy systems, including innovative systems.

The ultimate goal of the application of the INPRO methodology is to check whether the assessed nuclear energy system meets the basic principle of each assessment area and therefore represents a long-term sustainable energy system. One possible output from an assessment is the identification of areas where a given nuclear energy system has a gap and needs improvement. For innovative energy systems this may identify a gap that needs research and development to address in order to make the system sustainable.

An assessment using the INPRO methodology is holistic and comprehensive, covering all nuclear energy systems, the lifecycle of the system, and a century of time. A main outcome is to increase public acceptance, and to not have a negative impact on future generations in meeting their energy needs.

NEI: How does INPRO support capacity building?

CS: The INPRO programme assists member states in capacity building on long range and strategic planning for energy systems. Capacity building is an essential component of the Integrated Advisory Service on strategic planning for sustainable nuclear energy deployment that INPRO provides to the member States considering initial development or expansion of their nuclear energy programmes.

To support member states’ capacity building on strategic planning for sustainable nuclear energy deployment and development, INPRO developed various training programmes covering all essential approaches, methods, tools and activities from all INPRO tasks.

They aim to assist the member states in their long range and strategic planning of nuclear energy programmes as part of a country’s energy mix. INPRO supports member states in developing the necessary competencies for assessment and analysis of nuclear energy systems to support national decisions on the future use of nuclear energy.

NEI: What kind of training and assistance does INPRO offer?

CS: To support the sustainable development of nuclear energy systems – nationally, regionally and globally – the INPRO Methodology developed a holistic, technically sound, consensus assessment approach and a multidimensional nuclear energy system sustainability methodology. The INPRO Section in the Nuclear Energy Department can provide INPRO member states with requested training and guidance on the use of the INPRO methodology to perform a nuclear energy system sustainability assessment (NESA).

Outreach to other international programmes and initiatives and INPRO training activities on nuclear technology innovations and sustainability, is central to achieving the stated objectives of INPRO.

NEI: Who can join the INPRO programme?

CS: Any IAEA member state or recognised international organisation can join INPRO. Members benefit from international cooperation and collaborative projects facilitated by INPRO tools, models, publications and expertise. They can participate in the INPRO Dialogue Forums and in collaborative projects and access results and findings of INPRO studies.

Author: Judith Perera, Contributing Editor, Nuclear Engineering International