Over 250 nuclear industry leaders, regulators, researchers, government representatives and technology providers have issued a ‘Call to Action’ for accelerating innovative solutions to sustain and advance the current operational fleet of nuclear power plants (NPPs) around the world. The ‘Call to Action’ emphasizes the four innovations identified by the participants of a three-day Global Forum on Innovation for the Future of Nuclear Energy, co-organized by the IAEA and held from 10-12 June in Gyeongju, the Republic of Korea.
The key goal of the event was to tackle the most urgent challenges facing the nuclear sector and examine barriers and opportunities for deploying innovative technological and process solutions to maintain or even enhance nuclear safety while reducing costs. For this, the participants highlighted 28 innovations on various aspects of operating the current NPP fleet, topped by the following four:
- digital twinning (the virtual recreation of a process into a computer-based model) to improve NPP performance and to reduce costs;
- advanced manufacturing, including 3D printing, to address supply chain challenges;
- machine learning to make better use of the ‘big data’ already available in the nuclear power sector for optimizing maintenance; and
- using more innovative frameworks for information exchange, to share data on research and development, operations and maintenance.
The ‘Call to Action’ forms the basis of developing actionable items for deployment and implementation beyond the event itself.
The forum was co-organized by the IAEA, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), the United Kingdom’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA) and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP), which hosted the event.
“The nuclear industry is a vital part of the global energy mix, in particular to address climate change because it’s a zero-carbon energy source,” said EPRI Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer Neil Wilmshurst. “This unique forum prioritized critical innovations needed in the nuclear industry, came to an understanding of the barriers and committed to working together to eliminate them.”
The event’s participants, from early career to industry leadership, were guided by the following: to collaborate, foster change, disrupt and make a difference within their respective organizations — and across the nuclear sector. Sessions focused on topics such as challenges facing innovation in the nuclear sector today and successful examples of nuclear innovation. A roundtable with regulators, facilitated by Director General William Magwood of the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency provided perspectives from leaders in the field.
“The effective support from the younger generation of nuclear professionals, working in tandem with management, is an inspiring sign that innovation will be driven by the combined dynamism and engagement of current and future leaders,” said Ed Bradley, Team Leader for NPP Operation and Engineering Support at the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy.
Joan Knight, Innovation Director at Exelon and Chairperson of a discussion session at the forum, added: “I’m pleased to be part of an effort that advances more powerful practices of innovation across the nuclear sector and to shape attitudes that are supportive of related activities.”
The event was the first of its kind between the co-organizing institutions and was facilitated by meetings on innovation held in Vienna in 2018 and 2019. Similar forums are expected to take place in the future as platforms to share progress on actions, meet new challenges, strengthen collaborations and foster new partnerships.
“We are delighted to host the next Global Forum in 2020,” added Rob Whittleston, Vice President at NNL, during the closing ceremony.