Two interregional IAEA workshops, one on Technology Development and Applications, and the other on Generic User Requirements for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), have brought together 142 participants from 51 IAEA Member States to learn more about small modular reactors, and technological advancements in this field, with the aim of building national understanding of the role of SMRs and supporting eventual decision-making on their potential deployment. Small Modular Reactors, including microreactors (MRs) have small footprints, built in safety features and minimal carbon emissions, and are transportable and adaptable to various power grids.

The workshops, hosted by the Government of the People’s Republic of China through the China Atomic Energy Authority, China National Nuclear Corporation and Hainan Nuclear Power Co. Ltd, opened in Sanya, China, on 4 September 2023 in the presence of Csaba Lantos, Minister of Energy, Hungary, Patrick Nomo, Chief Director, Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation, Ghana, Ugur Cevik, Vice President of Türkiye Energy, Nuclear and Mineral Research Agency, Türkiye.

In his opening address, Liu Jing, Vice Chairman, China Atomic Energy Authority, pointed out that small modular reactors have become key elements in nuclear energy technology transformation and industrial development within the context of global climate change. Liu Jing stressed China’s commitment to the safe development of nuclear energy and to promoting nuclear technology innovation, and noted China’s pioneering role in the development and deployment of small modular reactors.

The workshops were organized under the Practical Arrangement signed with China earlier this year, which focuses on cooperation in nuclear power infrastructure development and deployment of SMRs. Attendees included energy decision-makers, experts in nuclear power design and operation, regulators, Ministers, Directors-General and general managers. Liu Hua, IAEA Deputy Director-General and Head of the IAEA’s Department of Technical Cooperation, thanked China for their generous financial in-kind support for the event, and reminded participants of the important role that nuclear power can play in achieving zero-carbon economies. He said that an interregional IAEA technical cooperation project has been providing assistance and support to Member States considering the deployment of SMRs since January 2022. Fifty-seven IAEA Member States are taking part in the project, with the support of 17 donor countries.

“The project aims to build understanding among national stakeholders of the key characteristics and applications of SMR and MR technologies, and to address SMR and MR safety and security by helping Member States to establish appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks in line with international safety standards,” Liu Hua said. “SMR development and eventual deployment rely heavily on standardization and harmonization of the regulatory and industrial approaches.  The technical cooperation project therefore also aims to collate generic user requirements and criteria for SMR technologies. This effort is closely aligned with aims of the Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative launched by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in June 2022.”

Stressing the importance of safety at every step, Ana Gomez Cobo, Section Head of the IAEA’s Safety Assessment Section, said “Addressing the safety and security from the very beginning of any SMR project, and working together internationally, are essential for enabling the development and deployment of SMRs worldwide.”

Liu Hua noted also that the IAEA has established a Platform on Small Modular Reactors and their Applications, which serves as a comprehensive resource for Member States and stakeholders.

On the second day of the workshops, the course participants visited the Changjiang Nuclear Power Plant in South China’s Hainan Province. This facility is the base for construction of the Linglong-1 ­– the world’s first commercial small modular reactor (SMR). The SMR project in Changjiang is to begin installation by the end of 2023. Qu Yong, Deputy Chief Engineer of Hainan Nuclear Power, informed the workshop participants that the project will transition to the commissioning stage in the second half of 2024.

Technical visits in Chengdu were also facilitated, with the goal of offering tailored insights into SMR research and development centres and manufacturing facilities.

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