x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

UN nuclear watchdog seeks to help newcomers overcome challenges

The UAE became the IAEA's first newcomer country in almost 30 years, followed by Belarus last month, prompting the agency to update its documents to help newcomers to nuclear power proceed successfully.

Doug Cooper, group senior vice president at Sellafield Ltd, a UK-based company responsible for safely delivering nuclear waste on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, was one of the speakers at the Nuclear International Conference in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National
Doug Cooper, group senior vice president at Sellafield Ltd, a UK-based company responsible for safely delivering nuclear waste on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, was one of the speakers at the Nuclear International Conference in Abu Dhabi. Delores Johnson / The National

ABU DHABI // The International Atomic Energy Agency is updating its reports to help newcomers in nuclear energy understand how to start their own programme and the challenges involved.

A quarter of the global population has no reliable access to power and with an expected one-third increase in energy demand by 2035, newcomers will have to overcome a number of challenges to ensure an effective nuclear power programme.

“We’re in the process of revising our documents again,” said Brian Molloy, the agency’s (IAEA) technical head in human resources of nuclear power engineering. “Because, even though they were written five years ago, with the newcomer countries and the experiences we’re learning, we’re seeing that things are being done quite differently in terms of programme development.

“The next generation is proven to be quite different from the last, because the world has changed and it’s now much more of a global industry.”

These documents include a road map to guide senior decision-makers, a document with “working level” guidance on how to start a nuclear power programme, and an e-learning programme covering all 19 infrastructure issues faced by newcomers.

“If you look at the first generation like the US, France, Russia and the UK, they mostly did their own research, developed their own designs and built them in-country,” he said.

“What’s happening now is that most newcomers are buying a licensed product from those and other vendor countries so the industry is now truly global. It’s not organic within a country.”

Mr Molloy was speaking on the sidelines of the new international nuclear energy conference in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

The UAE was the agency’s first newcomer country in almost 30 years, followed by Belarus last month. “We’re updating the documents based on recent practice now that we’ve got new contracts,” he said.

“The practice is proving a bit different to the theory, which was based on past experience.”

The IAEA expects Turkey, which made a contract earlier this year, to get its licence for construction next year. Vietnam, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Nigeria are also close to making contractual agreements to build their first power plants.

The updated reports are expected to help them through the first phase of a nuclear project.

“There are 19 distinct infrastructure issues identified in the development of a national nuclear programme for newcomers,” said Mr Molloy.

“They include the national position, nuclear safety, management, funding and financing. The national position is the most important thing – before safety – for newcomers, because it’s a 100-year programme and a huge investment. So for it to be successful, you have to have national commitment.”

But the results will pay off.

Energy demand is expected to rise by 30 per cent by 2035 and 90 per cent of that increase will be used by developing nations, experts.

“Data from the World Bank shows that the contribution from nuclear and renewable energies has declined in the past five years with projections of a greater need,” said Doug Cooper, group senior vice president at Sellafield Ltd, a UK-based company responsible for safely delivering nuclear waste on behalf of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

“Nuclear power is necessary to contributing to solving global problems of mankind.”

The main drivers for newcomers include energy independence, volatile fuel prices, climate change and an increased demand for energy.

“Nuclear energy is a clean carbon technology and many developing countries don’t have the luxury of the fossil resources that the developed countries had in the past,” Mr Molloy said.

“They can’t afford to import so fossil technology is not an option. Everybody says we should go towards renewables but renewable technologies are by nature intermittent so the more you have them, the more you need a reliable base-load generation and nuclear can have an important role to play in that.

“Energy is the foundation of all economic and human development.”

cmalek@thenational.ae