Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) on 30 January published a report on the conditions for safe operation of small modular reactors (SMRs).
The Finnish-language report discusses questions associated with the safety assessment and licensing of SMRs as STUK prepares for the licensing of new power plant types.
A working group established by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment is currently investigating the need to further develop the Nuclear Energy Act.
One of the topics under discussion is the current statutory licensing system of nuclear facilities and how to adapt it for licensing SMRs and monitoring their radiation safety.
“Globally, significant investments are being made on the development of SMRs and the parties showing interest are not just traditional nuclear power companies," STUK said.
It added that many new organisations, such as cities, municipalities and the process industry have also expressed interest in using SMRs for producing heat and power.
Although there are as yet no concrete plans for building an SMR in Finland, STUK wishes to prepare for the future.
“We must be able to inform the parties considering the use of nuclear energy of the safety requirements that apply to novel nuclear power plants and must be capable of assessing the safety of the plants as necessary”, said Petteri Tiippana director general of STUK
“While technology is evolving rapidly, changing the existing licensing system and the instructions that supplement the legislation takes some time," he added.
Tiippana said STUK is preparing for the future to ensure that the safety of SMRs will be at least at the same level as that of the existing nuclear plants.
In addition to operating nationally, STUK is also active in international cooperation where the national regulators consider the rules for the licensing and safety of SMRs.
The significance of international cooperation and a standard set of rules is emphasised by the fact the companies designing SMRs expect that a single reactor design could be built in as many countries as possible.
Both the Canadian and US nuclear regulators are already developing regulatory activities related to proposed SMR projects.
In August 2019, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission signed a first-of-a-kind Memorandum of Cooperation allowing collaboration. In December the US and Canadian regulators announced they had selected Terrestrial Energy's integral molten salt reactor for a joint technical review.