Friday, May 12, 2017

Good Nuclear News:

Positive Moves in Several Countries

In the last couple of weeks, I've seen news items from several countries that appear to be good signs for nuclear power.  Unfortunately, these news items seem to have been drowned out by other news, and, as a result, they have not gotten the visibility and recognition they deserve, either as individual events, or as a confluence of forward-thinking decisions and actions.  The items that I think deserve a special mention are:

French Academy of Science contradicts national nuclear policy:  Briefly, the French Academy of Science has concluded that the current French policy of reducing the use of nuclear energy is unworkable, and that the current fleet of nuclear power plants should be maintained.  This position, coming from such a credible and respected institution, will hopefully encourage an open dialogue and a rational approach to energy decisions.

France and the U.K. are collaborating on nuclear skills:  With Brexit looming, everyone has been wondering about the impacts on nuclear collaboration between the U.K. and countries in the European Union.  Thus, the recent announcement of an agreement for joint work on developing standards for training, facilitating exchanges, and other collaborative efforts is a very good sign.

Japan establishes new inspection framework:  One historic drawback of the Japanese nuclear regulatory system has been its weak inspection framework.  This weakness has been observed and noted frequently over the years by observers of the Japanese nuclear program.  Therefore, I was very pleased to see that they are establishing a new framework, drawing some lessons from U.S. practices.

India strengthens independence of its regulatory system:  On a similar note, India has announced a plan to revise its regulatory system to be more independent, based on examples such as the nuclear regulatory systems in the U.S., U.K. and France.  Since independence has, time and again, been held up as one of the most important characteristics of an effective regulator, this is a very promising development in the Indian program.

One can argue that some of these steps may be overdue, but others (for example, the French Academy's announcement) are unexpected (at least to me) but very welcome, or, like the French-U.K. collaboration, demonstrate a very proactive approach to addressing impending changes.   

Each of these news items is significant in itself, but the fact that all these announcements were made in a very short time is very promising evidence of the positive developments taking place in several countries with significant nuclear programs.