New IAEA publication offers guidance for newcomer countries

18 March 2020

A new International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) publication provides important guidance to nuclear power newcomer countries in establishing and developing the plant’s owner/operator.

It does this by outlining the owner/operator's tasks and responsibilities throughout the phases to prepare for plant construction and operation.

Initiating Nuclear Power Programmes: Responsibilities and Capabilities of Owners and Operators” is published in the IAEA Nuclear Energy Series, No. NG-T-3.1 (Rev.1).

It offers guidance on the main activities, responsibilities and desirable attributes of the owner/operator in a country starting a nuclear power programme.

It assumes that the same organisation will own and operate the NPP and takes into account over ten years of experience and good practices in countries that are introducing nuclear power. It also factors in lessons learned during Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review missions and IAEA technical assistance to newcomer countries.

“The new publication represents a significant revision of a document first issued in 2009,” said Jose Bastos, technical lead in the IAEA’s Nuclear Power Infrastructure Development Section.

He added: “It provides detailed information on the owner/operator’s activities and responsibilities for each of the 19 infrastructure issues in Phases 2 and 3 of the Milestones Approach. In addition, we have also added detailed references to other relevant IAEA documents, including IAEA Safety Standards.”

IAEA said that togther with the nuclear energy implementing organisation (NEPIO) and the nuclear regulatory body, the power plant owner/operator is one of the three key organisations identified in the IAEA’s Milestones Approach for developing a nuclear power programme.

After a country decides to launch such a programme at the end of Phase 1, the owner/operator in Phase 2 needs to conduct a feasibility study, evaluate different technologies and select the preferred ones, prepare a financial plan, and negotiate a contract for the nuclear power plnat. In Phase 3, the responsibilities of the owner/operator include applying for necessary licences, overseeing construction and preparing for operation.

The publication describes how to establish the owner/operator organisation, its organisational structures and role, how to manage its growth as the programme develops, how to gain the required competencies for staff, and how to interact with a wide variety of stakeholders.

“Since the owner/operator has prime responsibility for the safety and security of the nulcear power plant, it should develop an organisational culture that promotes the appropriate attributes, values, standards, morals and norms of acceptable behaviour that are necessary at a nuclear facility,” Bastos said.

Strong leadership is important as well as clear procedures for internal and external communication. The owner/operator has to engage with stakeholders including national, regional and local authorities, regulatory bodies, the vendor, emergency response and technical support organisations, the grid operator and the public.

The IAEA said the plublication may also be useful to countries expanding their nuclear power programmes after long periods without new projects.

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