Nuclear Newcomers: Getting Organized for Success

Coordination among stakeholders is key for any complex undertaking. Introducing nuclear power is no different. The IAEA has recently issued a publication that can help nuclear newcomer countries set up and maintain an effective coordination mechanism, referred to as a nuclear energy programme implementing organization (NEPIO). A NEPIO is an important element of the IAEA Milestones Approach, an internationally accepted, comprehensive framework for nuclear power programme development.

Responsibilities and Functions of a Nuclear Energy Programme Implementing Organization, published in the IAEA Nuclear Energy Series (No. NG-T-3.6 (Rev. 1)), describes a set of practical and detailed responsibilities, functions and activities that national authorities can use as guidance. This publication, which represents a significant revision of a document first issued in 2009, takes into account nearly 10 years of experience and good practices of countries that are introducing or have recently introduced nuclear power, as well as lessons learned during Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions and IAEA technical assistance activities to newcomer countries.

There are many ways to structure a NEPIO and several could result in the successful execution of all functions and activities, explained Sean Dunlop of the Nuclear Infrastructure Development Section, who was responsible for this publication. The 2009 publication focused on a single approach: it assumed that a NEPIO would be a new organization established specifically to manage the nuclear power programme, and we see this working well in some cases. In other embarking countries the government’s responsibilities and functions are discharged effectively by interagency policy committees and working groups rather than a single, stand-alone organization.

In addition to describing a NEPIO’s responsibilities and functions, this revision defines the specific activities NEPIOs may carry out in relation to each of 19 infrastructure issues, ranging from a government’s national position on nuclear power to the procurement of items and services for the first nuclear power plant, during each phase of development.

The new publication recognizes that the NEPIO plays an important and evolving role in each of the three phases of nuclear power infrastructure development.

Case Studies

Several countries in various phases of their nuclear power programme development contributed case studies, sharing their experiences, good practices and lessons learned in the establishment and organization of their national NEPIOs.

For example, the Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB) serves as Kenya’s NEPIO. It is responsible for coordinating all aspects of Kenya’s nuclear power programme. Progressively, other institutions will be established, or existing institutions appointed to take up specific roles in the programme as it advances. Most importantly, these include the nuclear regulatory body and the future owner/operator of the nuclear power plant.

Belarus is currently completing the construction and preparing for the operation of its first nuclear power plant. As is the case in several embarking countries, Belarus’ NEPIO is organized on two levels. A high-level Inter-departmental Commission for Nuclear Power Plant Construction, headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, meets monthly to discuss major issues and monitor programme implementation. The Nuclear Energy Department of the Ministry of Energy coordinates day-to-day issues and also focuses on the development and implementation of programmes related to the long term sustainability of the nuclear power programme.

IAEA Milestones Approach

First issued in 2007 and revised in 2015, the IAEA Milestones Approach supports countries in creating an enabling environment for a successful nuclear power project and to understand, and prepare for, the associated commitments and obligations. This result-oriented approach comprises three phases (consider, prepare, construct), three milestones (decide, contract, commission) and 19 infrastructure issues to be addressed in each phase, such as nuclear safety, nuclear security, safeguards, legal and regulatory frameworks, radioactive waste management, human resource development and stakeholder involvement.

Over the past decade, the Milestones Approach has become a reference for Member States starting or expanding their nuclear power programmes. The Milestones Approach and supporting documents are widely used, and its framework and terminology have been broadly accepted.

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency