Japan, Czech Republic Latest Countries to Join Forum Dedicated to Safe and Secure Deployment of SMRs

Senior representatives from nuclear regulatory authorities recently met in Vienna to identify and discuss regulatory challenges related to small modular reactors (SMRs) and to share experiences on changes and adaptations to regulatory practices necessitated by these promising advanced technologies. The biannual meeting of the SMR Regulators’ Forum (SMR RF), from 28 November to 2 December, was also strengthened by the inclusion of the latest members, Japan and the Czech Republic, which joined the Forum this year, increasing its membership to eleven countries.

“The flexibility provided by advanced nuclear reactors is an asset for many countries considering such reactors,” said Anna Hajduk Bradford, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, in her opening remarks. “These new reactors present innovative features with regard to nuclear safety, for example greater reliance on inherent and passive safety. At the same time, some specific regulatory aspects need to be further examined, and the work of the SMR Regulators’ Forum provides an invaluable contribution to this area.”

There are over 70 commercial SMR designs in development around the world, and several of the SMR RF participating countries are presently constructing or licensing SMRs, namely Canada, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States of America. Trends identified during the meeting included the growing interest in SMRs, and the increasing investment by governments in research and development to enable regulators to respond to associated challenges, such as assessing first-of-a kind designs, engaging a broader range of stake-holders, ensuring availability of necessary technical expertise at the regulatory body, and revising relevant regulations. The need for collaboration between different regulators was also highlighted to ensure that policies and regulations follow an international harmonized approach for SMRs as far as possible.

Karel Künzel, Czech Republic State Office for Nuclear Safety (SUJB) representative and SMR RF Steering Committee Member , said: “Within the Forum, there are several groups of experts working to identify SMR-related regulatory challenges and thus helping us to make informed decisions on the need of adapting the existing national framework or developing specific requirements for SMRs. We believe that our participation in the Forum will enable us to be better prepared for the safe and secure SMR deployment.”

During the meeting, presentations were given on the outcomes of the International Conference on Topical Issues in Nuclear Installation Safety: Strengthening Safety of Evolutionary and Innovative Reactor Designs, and on the  newly launched online portal of the IAEA Platform on SMRs and their Applications as well as updates from other international organizations and entities, such as the World Nuclear Association (WNA) CORDEL, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD-NEA) and the European Union SMR pre-Partnership.

Meeting participants also received progress updates from the respective working groups – Regulatory Track and the Industry Track – of the IAEA’s Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI), which was launched in June 2022. In light of its longstanding work on SMR-related regulatory challenges, the SMR Regulators’ Forum was invited to lead one of the working groups under the NHSI Regulatory Track responsible for developing an approach on how one regulatory review can effectively be used with trust by another regulator, as well as a process on how regulators can work together during assessments of safety and security of SMR designs.

Makoto Toyama, Director, Regulatory Standard and Research Division of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority and the SMR RF Steering Committee Member from Japan, said: “We have been participating in the SMR Regulators’ Forum since April 2022. As regulators, we are very much interested in discussing SMR-related issues with other regulators, and we believe that such discussions, informed by experience and information sharing, can directly contribute to enhancing safety of SMRs.”

About the Forum

Launched in 2015, the SMR RF functions as a peer-to-peer platform, where experienced regulators can work together to identify and address key regulatory challenges related to SMRs by developing common positions and informing changes, if necessary, to relevant requirements and practices. Membership of the Forum is open to all IAEA member countries, who are able to contribute in a meaningful manner to the work of its Working Groups on: Licensing Issues; Design and Safety Analysis; and Manufacturing, Construction, Commissioning, and Operations.

Currently, the Forum’s Working Groups are developing key reports on agreed topics of work, including the integration of security, safeguards and safety-by-design principles; clarifying requirements for confinement and design provisions for containment; conduct of authorized activities and their impact on organizational stakeholders’ capabilities, such as those of designers, vendors, manufacturers, supply chains, operators.  The reports are expected in 2024.

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