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    EUROPEAN COMMISSION

    DIRECTORATE-GENERAL FOR RESEARCH & INNOVATION

 

    Directorate G – Energy

    G.4 – Fission Energy

    September 2015

                                                                                                                                          

                                                                           

 

EURATOM Research, Innovation and Education (RIE):

stakeholder needs, common vision, implementation instruments

 

DR. Georges VAN GOETHEM

European Commission, DG Research and Innovation, Dir Energy - G.4 / Fission Energy

 

 

Table of Contents

 

1 - Reminder about applications of nuclear fission and ionising radiation (today and future)

2 - Summary of Directives on reactor safety, radiation protection and waste management

3 - Identification of society and industry needs: contribution of nuclear to sustainability, security of supply, competitiveness

4 - Convergence towards a common vision: towards a robust, equitable and socially acceptable place for nuclear fission

5 - Development of implementation instruments to meet above needs and vision: funding of RIE actions under Euratom Horizon-2020

6 - Conclusion: towards a new way of "developing / teaching science" closer to the stakeholders

 

= = = = = = = = = =

 

In a rapidly changing multicultural world full of uncertainties (notably regarding sustainability, security/diversification of supply and competitiveness of the energy mix), a strong interaction between energy policies and Research, Innovation and Education /RIE/ may help reduce uncertainties. The common aim of policy makers and RIE programme managers is to develop robust, equitable and socially acceptable energy systems that are based on a balanced energy mix, made of renewable, fossil and fissile sources, preferably using "best available science". This ambitious objective implies a number of scientific-technological and socio-political challenges, involving a large spectrum of stakeholders, i.e.: providers and end-users of “RIE products and services” aiming at improving energy systems.

 

In the specific domain of Euratom RIE (i.e.: dedicated to nuclear fission and radiation protection, including applications of ionising radiation, e.g. for medical applications), the major stakeholder groups are represented in “European Technology Platforms” and consist of:

 

  • research organisations (e.g. public and private sectors, industrial and radio-medical)
  • systems suppliers (e.g. nuclear vendors, engineering companies, medical equipment)
  • energy providers (e.g. electro-nuclear utilities and industrial heat suppliers)
  • technical safety organizations (TSO) associated to nuclear regulatory authorities
  • academia and higher education and training institutions dedicated to nuclear fission
  • civil society (e.g. policy makers and opinion leaders), interest groups and NGOs.

 

The above stakeholder groups usually share similar RIE priorities, especially when aiming at strengthening the role of nuclear fission in the energy mix. As a consequence, usually all stakeholder groups are interested to participate in Euratom RIE projects. It is important however to stress that each stakeholder group draws conclusions from the RIE projects in an independent manner. This is especially true for the nuclear regulators (or TSOs) participating in joint RIE projects and having strict obligations for powers and independence in decision making. It is also worth noting that the civil society is involved whenever societal issues are at stake. Representatives of the civil society (such as non-governmental organisations /NGO/) are consulted, for example, through ad-hoc events organised by the sister EU institution European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) or they are invited in public debates organised by Euratom – but they usually do not participate directly in RIE projects.

 

The European Technology Platforms and the authoritative expert associations that are dealing with Euratom matters, play an important advisory (not decisional) role in the design of the relevant RIE programme, especially under the current EU Horizon-2020 programme of research and innovation (2014 – 2020). These stakeholder groups provide guidance and input to identify common needs, to develop a common vision and to share implementation instruments in connection with the main areas of Euratom research and training.

 

Before discussing stakeholder needs, common vision and implementation instruments for Euratom RIE, it is worth recalling some facts of the context (Section 1 below) and quoting the latest Euratom Directives i.e.: binding legislation (Section 2 below), in connection with the question "what is the role of Euratom RIE in the energy mix today and tomorrow ?".

 

1 - Reminder about applications of nuclear fission and ionising radiation (today and in the future)

 

(a) Facts and figures about nuclear fission: = 27 % of electricity production in the EU

 

In the EU, the generation of electricity through nuclear fission is a fact of life. In 2013 in the EU, a total of 131 units were operable in 14 Member States, i.e.: a total installed electricity capacity of 122 GWe net and a gross electricity generation of 833 TWh (i.e.: 27 % of gross electricity production or 14 % of gross inland primary energy consumption). World-wide in 2013, there were 438 nuclear power reactors in operation in 32 countries, which meant over 15 000 cumulative reactor-years of commercial operation (i.e.: 11 % of world electricity generation and 5.7 % of the world's energy). More than 45 Member States of the IAEA (on top of the above 32 countries) have communicated a serious expression of interest in nuclear power plant (NPP) construction. The front runners amongst the emerging nuclear energy countries are Iran, United Arabic Emirates (UAE), Turkey, Vietnam, Belarus, Poland and possibly Jordan.

 

Research, innovation and education are at the heart of the Euratom Treaty (1957). Article 4.1 of the Euratom Treaty mentions explicitly research and training as a twofold objective: “The EC is in charge of promoting and facilitating nuclear research activities in the Member States and to complement them through a Community Research and Training programme”. The aim of Euratom is to contribute to the sustainability of nuclear energy by generating appropriate knowledge (in particular, through research and innovation /R&I/) and developing competences (in particular, through education and training /E&T/). RIE is needed, in particular, to support continued safe operation, taking into account new challenges such as plant lifetime extension, and to assess and improve safety of waste management.

 

(b) Energy forecast in the EU: doubling of electricity consumption by 2050

 

The gradual electrification of the EU economy will continue, and the economy will become more electricity intensive over time. The general conclusion of all “decarbonisation scenarios” in the EU (see EU Energy Roadmap 2050) is that by 2050 electricity will play a much greater role than now and will have to contribute to the decarbonisation of transport and heating/cooling. Electricity in the EU will almost double its share in final energy demand - from 21 % today to 40 % in 2050. Doubling the electricity consumption by 2050 is a big challenge: how to produce this electricity in a "secure/diverse, clean and efficient" way following the requirements of the 21-st century ?

 

Euratom and national RIE are needed, in particular, to prepare the nuclear industry to adapt to the energy networks proposed for the future. These networks will include more renewable energy sources (sometimes associated with rigid support schemes such as priority grid access) and smart grids for the generation and distribution of electricity and other forms/vectors of energy. Scientific support will also be needed to develop new regulation and continuously improve standards for nuclear safety and radiation protection.

 

(c) Time horizon for industrial programmes of nuclear fission development: 100 years

 

Industrial and political competition in the energy sector is very tough world-wide. Moreover, more specifically in the nuclear sector, one of the big challenges is the time horizon: “from cradle to grave may exceed 100 years”. In our rapidly changing world, however, robust decision making over a long time horizon - notably in the complex interdisciplinary and international context of nuclear fission - has become harder than ever.

 

Euratom RIE exists since the early 1960's and covers most parts of the nuclear fuel cycle (upstream and downstream, from mining and milling to disposal of spent fuel and other radioactive waste), thereby contributing to the credibility of the nuclear energy industry. Euratom RIE funding is dedicated to the continuous improvement of reactor safety, radiation protection and waste management. On top of economic considerations, there are also more fundamental drivers for the progression of technologies and regulations regarding waste management, particularly the ethical and social obligations to remediate to the historical liabilities and not to create cost and burden for later generations. Euratom funding in waste management traditionally has been focussing on deep geological disposal. Decommissioning issues also will be covered, including generation of reusable materials, thereby demonstrating that closing the nuclear energy cycle is feasible. Material valorisation and recycling are becoming increasingly important in the context of the circular economy, as promoted by EU (see "resource efficiency agenda" established under the Europe 2020 Strategy). The finality of decommissioning indeed is environmental plus economic valorisation, once a site is cleaned and can be released from regulatory control and reused for other purposes.

 

The IAEA has published guidance for emerging nuclear energy countries who want to develop a national infrastructure for nuclear power. The decision to embark on a nuclear programme should be based upon a commitment to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes, in a safe and secure manner. This commitment requires the establishment of a sustainable national infrastructure that provides governmental, legal, regulatory, managerial, technological, human and industrial support for the nuclear programme throughout its life cycle. International nuclear RIE can contribute to satisfy this long-term political commitment.

 

(d) Breakthrough research and development: Generation-IV systems (reactors and fuel cycles)

 

A large collaborative effort of 10 countries world-wide (including Euratom), under the umbrella of GIF ("Generation-IV International Forum"), is focusing on nuclear alternatives, called Generation-IV reactor systems. The common aim is to drastically improve sustainability, safety & reliability, socio-economics and proliferation resistance of nuclear fission systems (industrial deployment planned around 2040). Conceptually, Generation-IV reactors have all features of Generation-III units, as well as the ability, when operating at high temperature, to support combined heat and power /CHP/ generation (aiming e.g. at producing economical and decarbonized hydrogen through thermal energy off-taking). In addition, these designs, when using fast neutron spectrum, include full actinide recycling and on-site fuel-cycle facilities. As a consequence, these Generation-IV reactor systems are able to maximise the natural resource base (i.e.: Uranium-238 which is non-fissionable but fertile) and minimise high-level wastes (i.e.: minor actinides) to be sent to a repository, while maximising inherent safety, increasing efficiency and minimising proliferation risks. Generation-IV options include a range of plant power ratings, including "batteries" of 100 MWe, modular systems rated around 400 MWe, and large monolithic plants of up to 2000 MWe.

 

In the EU, the European Sustainable Nuclear Industrial Initiative (ESNII) is focusing on Generation-IV fast neutron technologies, together with the supporting research infrastructures and fuel facilities. The three types of fast reactor (using, respectively, sodium, lead or gas as coolant) have a comparable potential for making efficient use of uranium and minimising the production of high level radioactive waste. When it comes to priorities, the previous work in the EU on sodium technology gives this option a strong starting position. As an alternative to sodium, however, the lead and gas fast reactors also offer a number of interesting features.

 

As far as safety and radiation protection of Generation-IV is concerned, it is worth quoting a study by the French Technical Safety Organisation IRSN: "Review of Generation-IV Nuclear Energy Systems" (2014). Their conclusion is valid world-wide and reads:

 

"It should be borne in mind that any industrial deployment of a Generation-IV reactor system in France will be linked to its advantages, not only regarding reactor fleet operation and safety, but also in terms of the coherence and performance of the associated fuel cycle. This concerns all aspects relating to safety, radiation protection, material management and efforts made to minimise the quantities of radioactive waste generated, without overlooking the overall economic competitiveness of the nuclear system. Ultimately, the choice of system must be made as part of an integrated approach, based on studies that cover multiple criteria and all the aspects mentioned above."

 

(e) Medical applications of ionising radiation subject to radiation protection

 

The main benefits from nuclear-related technologies usually refer to nuclear fission and electricity production. There is however an increasing number of industrial and medical and other applications of ionising radiation, requiring also highly educated experts with very specific knowledge, skills and competences (KSC) in nuclear sciences. It is worth recalling that ionising radiation has been used in medicine for more than a century and has proven to be an essential component of modern medical diagnosis and treatment of patients.

 

In medical applications subject to radiation protection (as opposed to electro-nuclear installations), the big difference is that medical patient irradiation is wilful and deliberate, because it is inherent in the medical procedure. In medical applications, there is a logic of the risk / benefit type - contrary to irradiation in NPPs which should be prevented or at least minimized to regulatory “allowable radiation levels”, keeping in mind that the main goal of NPPs is power generation in a safe, secure and affordable way.

 

(f) International nuclear legislation: focus on safety technology, regulation and culture

 

International safety concerns are notably summarized in the warning: “A (severe) nuclear accident anywhere is an accident everywhere”. Euratom directives (which are legally binding for all EU Member States) play a dominant role in the choice of RIE priorities at EU level, notably, in domains connected to reactor safety, radiation protection and waste management (Section 2 below on Euratom Directives). It is also worth recalling that international cooperation is one of the purposes of the Euratom Treaty as set out in its Preamble, first article, namely: "the desire to associate other countries with their work and to cooperate with international organisations concerned with the peaceful development of atomic energy."

 

Equally important is the emphasis put world-wide (upon initiatives of both IAEA and OECD/NEA after the Chernobyl accident, 1986) on the continuous development and sharing of nuclear safety and radiation protection culture, based on technical, human and organisational excellence (be it in industry or in health care organisations). As a consequence, actions are conducted world-wide to develop and share the specific knowledge, skills and competences that are needed, in particular, to develop human and organizational factors fostering leadership for safety (i.e.: sense of responsibility and ownership as well as questioning attitude of all staff members in the nuclear organisation from top to bottom).

 

The role of IAEA is particularly important w.r.t. the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons /TNP/ (IAEA 1970, signed by 190 States, including Euratom). The main objective is to develop peaceful applications of nuclear fission energy and ionising radiation for the benefit of both society and industry, i.e.: continuously improving proliferation resistance and physical protection (in particular, protection against all kinds of terrorism). In the EU, TNP issues are treated principally by the diplomatic service EEAS who, in the nuclear domain, has competence on non-proliferation and global security issues as well as counter-terrorism. Euratom RIE plays a role of technical support (e.g. development of new instrumentation for nuclear safeguards, nuclear inspections and nuclear forensics).

 

(g) "2012 Interdisciplinary Study" and 2013 EU Symposium on "Nuclear Fission Research"

 

In view of their decision on the Euratom part of Horizon-2020, the EU Council requested in 2011 that" the Commission organise a symposium in 2013 on the benefits and limitations of nuclear fission for a low carbon economy. The symposium will be prepared by an interdisciplinary study involving, inter alia, experts from the fields of energy, economics and social sciences". As a result, the Commission services (coordinated by DG RTD) and the EESC launched in April 2012 the "2012 Interdisciplinary Study - Benefits and limitations of nuclear fission for a low carbon economy: Defining priorities for Euratom fission research & training (Horizon 2020)". It was composed of two parts (a scientific-technological and a socio-political part, including an Ethics Study – see item (2) on Common Vision below) and was published on the occasion of and presented at the 2013 Symposium on "Nuclear Fission Research for a low carbon economy" (Brussels, 26-27 February 2013).

 

Based on general recommendations (ten in total) which were endorsed by the Council in 2013, clear objectives were given to future Euratom RIE programmes, e.g.:

 

  • more science-based support for EU energy policy, taking advantage of multi-sectorial and interdisciplinary programmes including new ways of engaging the public

 

  • creation and transfer not only of knowledge but also of skills and competences, making use of implementation instruments developed by EU and national policies.

 

(h) EU Energy Union (COM(2015) 80): Euratom RIE focus on highest standards of safety

 

The EU energy policy document “A resilient Energy Union with a forward-looking climate change policy” (priority no 3 out of 10 in the high-level agenda of EC 2014-2019) focusses on the implementation of the EU Energy Roadmap 2050 with ambitious targets in energy conservation and decarbonisation. As underlined in the "Research and Innovation and Competitiveness" dimension of the Energy Union, actions should be grouped around 4 core priorities - renewables, consumer, energy efficiency, transport - on top of which 2 research priorities - carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear fission – could be added for those Member States interested in those technologies. Meeting the challenge of decarbonisation, especially in countries with (or planning to go for) nuclear power plants, is not just a burden, it is in fact an investment opportunity.

 

The following excerpt from the EU 2014 Energy Union Communication is important:

"Section 2.5. An Energy Union for Research, Innovation and Competitiveness"

….. Nuclear energy presently produces nearly 30% of the EU's electricity. The EU must ensure that Member States use the highest standards of safety, security, waste management and non-proliferation. The EU should also ensure that it maintains technological leadership in the nuclear domain, including through ITER, so as not to increase energy and technology dependence.

 

(i) United Nations 2015 "Sustainable Development Goals" (SDG)

 

The SDGs (17 in total) of the post-2015 agenda integrate economic, social and environmental aspects and recognize their inter-linkages in achieving sustainable development in all its dimensions. Of particular interest are SDG no 7 “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for alland two closely connected SDGs, namely:

- no 4 "Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all" and

- no 9 “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation".

 

World population will continue to increase, primarily in the developing countries. This will increasingly influence future energy and environmental trends, related problems, and the policies developed to address them. Energy technologies and technology development will be more influenced by environmental concerns than by most other factors.

 

As far as E&T in the post-2015 agenda and, in particular, the role of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), is concerned, it is worth quoting a high-level (Gabonese) representative of the 2013 UNESCO Leaders' Forum (6 November 2013, UNESCO Headquarters, Paris):

 

"It seems unrealistic, today, to wish to build an education system that is as inclusive and efficient as possible, without integrating the vast potential of information highways and specifically MOOCs. As you know, MOOCs allow us to transmit the same lesson to thousands of students via a live broadcast as well as to organize assessments and discussion forums with teachers and lecturers and thus, at the end of the course, award a certificate. The use of MOOCs is therefore a response to the greatest challenge facing the education system: enabling the massification of teaching for an ever-growing public and surmounting the structural obstacle of a lack of premises and teachers."

 

2 - Summary of recent Euratom Directives on reactor safety, radiation protection and waste management

 

The latest Euratom Directives focus quite naturally on nuclear safety in all domains concerned, while containing explicit references to the need of RIE (science based policies) as well as high-level expertise and skills. The Directives also are aligned with three key principles of good governance: openness, participation, accountability, as shown below.

 

(a) Revised Euratom “Reactor Safety” Directive (8 July 2014):

focus on maximum safety while containing obligations to rely on state-of-the-art scientific and technical knowledge and to ensure transparency of regulatory decisions and effective participation, as shown in the five following excerpts:

 

  • "Whereas (7)" The regulatory decision-making process should take into account competences and expertise, which may be provided by technical support organisations. This expertise should be based on state-of-the-art scientific and technical knowledge, including from operational experience and safety-related research, knowledge management, and adequate technical resources.

 

  • Excerpt of "Article 8, dedicated to Transparency” 

“1. Member States shall ensure that necessary information in relation to nuclear safety of nuclear installations … is made available to workers and the general public, …………

4. Member States shall ensure that the public shall be given the appropriate opportunities to participate effectively in the decision making process relating to the licensing of nuclear installations, in accordance with relevant legislation ...”

 

  • The most important improvement is the introduction of a high-level "Nuclear safety objective for nuclear installations" under "Specific Obligation - Article 8a" (targeting new build /Art. 8a 2a/ as well as existing nuclear reactors /Art. 8a 2b/), namely:

 

Article 8a 1. Member States shall ensure that the national nuclear safety framework requires that nuclear installations are designed, sited, constructed, commissioned, operated and decommissioned with the objective of preventing accidents and, should an accident occur, mitigating its consequences and avoiding:

(a) early radioactive releases that would require off-site emergency measures but with insufficient time to implement them;

(b) large radioactive releases that would require protective measures that could not be limited in area or time.

Article 8a 2. Member States shall ensure that the national framework requires that the objective set out in paragraph 1:

(a) applies to nuclear installations for which a construction licence is granted for the first time after the date of the entry into force of this Directive.

(b) is used as a reference for the timely implementation of reasonably practicable safety improvements to existing nuclear installations, including in the framework of the periodic safety reviews as defined in Article 8c(b).

 

  • Specific Obligation Article 8c - Initial assessment and periodic safety reviews …

This review aims at ensuring compliance with the current design basis and identifies further safety improvements by taking into account ageing issues, operational experience, most recent research results and developments in international standards, using as a reference the objective set in Article 8a.

 

  • Also worth mentioning are “Article 8e – Peer Reviews” and “Chapter 2a - Peer Reviews and Reporting” dealing with cross-border peer reviews to be conducted by national regulators across the EU (i.e.: a mandatory mutual assistance process resulting from the “Stress Tests” carried out in the 131 nuclear units in the EU).

NB. The Stress Tests initiative was launched by EU Commissioner for Energy in March 2011 following the Fukushima Daiichi accident. As a result, a number of concrete improvements are proposed to increase the NPP safety margins. The conclusions must be implemented: the associated costs are estimated to be in the range of Euro 30 million to 200 million per reactor unit (in the EU, total cost of upgrade of NPPs is estimated approximately Euro 25 billion).

 

 (b) Euratom "Basic Safety Standards" (BSS) Directive (5 December 2013):

dealing with radiation protection of workers and public, while also containing obligations to ensure Transparency as well as Education, Training and Information and definition of three (mandatory) specific functions for regulatory control in the Member States, as shown below.

 

Excerpt of "Article 77 – Transparency": "Member States shall ensure that information …… is made available to undertakings, workers, members of the public, as well as ...."

 

Of particular interest is the incorporation of a new Chapter IV specifically covering E&T, namely "Requirements for Radiation Protection Education, Training and Information". Amongst other items, this chapter requires Member States to have systems in place for the education, training and recognition of specific experts. Moreover Chapter IX is about “Requirements for regulatory control” / “Section 1 – Institutional Infrastructure”, containing the definitions of "Radiation protection experts" (RPE - Article 82), of "Medical physics experts" (MPE - Article 83) and of "Radiation protection officers" (RPO - Article 84).

 

(c) Euratom “Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste Management” Directive (19 July 2011):

also containing obligations to ensure research and development and education and training (E&T) as well as expertise and skills, as shown in the two following excerpts:

 

  • "Whereas (39)" Scientific research and technological development supported by technical cooperation between actors may open horizons to improve the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, as well as contribute to reducing the risk of the radiotoxicity of high-level waste.

 

  • "Article 8 - Expertise and skills"

Member States shall ensure that the national framework require all parties to make arrangements for education and training for their staff, as well as research and development activities to cover the needs of the national programme for spent fuel and radioactive waste management in order to obtain, maintain and to further develop necessary expertise and skills.

 

3 - Identification of society and industry needs: contribution of nuclear to sustainability, security of supply, competitiveness

 

  1. promoting sustainability of energy, i.e.: limiting the environmental impact of energy production, transport and use (aligned with decarbonisation of the global economy) as well as waste minimisation (circular economy, i.e.: how to do more with less).

     

    The interaction between human activities and climate change in terms of sustainability can be analysed in many ways in RIE projects. The evaluation of “externalities”, in particular, can be regarded as a relative measure for sustainability. An externality is commonly defined as a cost that arises when the social or economic activities of one group of persons have an impact on another group and that impact is not fully accounted for by the first group.

     

    For nuclear applications, sustainability means (following the Generation-IV strategy):

        - generate energy sustainably and promote long-term availability of nuclear fuel

        - minimise radioactive waste and reduce the long term stewardship burden.

     

  2. increasing security / diversification of supply of energy (especially of electricity)

     

    Ensuring uninterruptible power supply (24/7/365), including stable power grid infrastructure, is a challenge. This is true not only in emerging countries but also in industrialised countries relying massively on intermittent sources of primary energy with variable loads and dispersed generation, and confronted with complex interactions between suppliers and customers.

     

    For nuclear applications in the future energy mix, security of supply means, in particular, to integrate the 21-st-century idea of “smart grids”, allowing the electrical system to respond to changes in both supply and demand. Nuclear power plants provide the requested rotational inertia to the electrical system, permitting reactive power control for voltage stability. New developments might be needed, however, to improve the load following capabilities of NPPs.

     

  3. ensuring competitiveness, i.e.: reducing the energy bill for households and businesses.

     

    Competitiveness means principally reducing the energy bill for all customers. It could also mean energy storage - which is the missing link for a successful transition to a decarbonised economy. Storing the excess energy and using it when needed seems to be a great solution. Moreover, taking a broader view, economics cannot be separated from social considerations.

     

    For nuclear applications, socio-economics means, in particular,

  • have a life cycle cost advantage over other energy sources (cost/MWh)

  • have a level of financial risk comparable to other energy projects (cost/kWe).

    while fostering public engagement in decision making. Guidance for Euratom RIE in the domain of safe operation of current reactor systems (e.g. integrity of equipment and structures) is provided by the "NUclear GENeration II & III Association" (NUGENIA).

     

    Besides electricity generation, nuclear fission energy can be used for cogeneration of heat and power, including for energy storage purposes. For example, water splitting technologies using decarbonised power sources (e.g. high-temperature electrolysis by nuclear fission) will produce hydrogen and oxygen, paving the way for the broad use of hydrogen as a clean fuel.

     

    As far as sustainability at large is concerned, three more stakeholder requirements regarding applications of nuclear fission and ionising radiation should be mentioned:

     

  • improve continuously and share safety technology, regulation and culture, in particular, by drawing lessons from the major accidents (TMI, Chernobyl, Fukushima)

 

  • Three Mile Island /TMI/ (1979): evaluation of reactor safety and reliability from a holistic point of view (e.g. balance between deterministic and probabilistic methods, man-technology-organisation interface; severe accident management)

     

  • Chernobyl (1986): whole "safety culture" concept and strategy based on prevention and workers' participation as well as development of laws and regulations related to nuclear safety, accidents, assistance and health at work

     

  • Fukushima Daiichi (2011): improvements of plant (multi-reactor) robustness in extreme situations ("Stress Tests" in the EU, 2012, and world-wide) as well as importance of political structure (independence of national regulatory authorities).

     

  • lifting uncertainty following low doses due to industrial and medical applications, by providing scientific evidence on the radiation risk

 

There is a strong need to assess scientifically the effects of low and protracted radiation doses, using, for example, the latest findings of cellular and molecular biology research. In the medical domain, in particular, dose optimisation in radiology (aiming at appropriate image quality for different clinical tasks) is in fact one of the biggest research and innovation challenges for the scientific-technological community concerned.

 

  • attract and prepare a new generation of nuclear experts (education and training)

 

Faced with the challenge of ageing workforce (especially in the industrialised countries) and shortages of skilled professionals, the STEM research community (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) at large has called for a steady upgrade of the level of knowledge, skills and competences while striving to attract a new generation of experts. There is a need to better integrate higher education institutions and stakeholder organisations, in particular, in areas where human resources could be at risk.

 

DG Education and Culture has developed a number of E&T instruments aiming at fostering lifelong learning and cross-border mobility, notably: the “European Credit Transfer and accumulation System” /ECTS/ (Erasmus or 1999 Bologna process) and the "European Credit System for Vocational Education and Training" /ECVET/ (2002 Copenhagen process). These EU instruments are aiming at meeting the stakeholder needs in all professional sectors at all educational levels (academic or continuous professional and organisational development). As a result, most E&T schemes (funded by the EU) consist in units of so-called "learning outcomes" that are defined in terms of KSC. This is a key factor in the common language required between the world of education and that of work when discussing E&T curricula. The process for assessing and validating KSCs, however, still needs to be better qualified, in order to facilitate mutual recognition of jobs and functions by employers across the EU.

 

In the specific nuclear fission domain, a "European Human Resources Observatory - Nuclear Energy" (EHRO-N) was created in 2009 with the aim to study demand and supply of nuclear expertise. EHRO-N studies are instrumental in setting priorities in the Euratom RIE programme. Not surprisingly, E&T programmes in nuclear installations in the EU are also a priority for the nuclear regulators, as is concluded e.g. from the above "stress tests”.

 

To ensure the highest achievable standards for nuclear E&T at EU level, a non-profit association was formed in September 2003 (under French 1901 law). This is the European Nuclear Education Network (ENEN), located at CEA / INSTN Saclay (Paris) and composed of 66 members (universities, research organisations, industry) from 18 EU Member States + Switzerland, South Africa, the Russian Federation, Ukraine and Japan. The synergy of ENEN with national E&T networks in EU Member States and with the European Technology Platforms and authoritative expert associations as well as with the above EHRO-N is instrumental to ensure successful design and execution of Euratom E&T actions.

 

4 - Convergence towards a common vision: towards a robust, equitable and socially acceptable place for nuclear fission

 

Energy (in particular, nuclear fission) technologies can be transmitted to the next generations only within the framework of a responsible strategy regarding sustainability, security of supply and competitiveness. This is (not surprisingly) in line with the IAEA statement: “any use of nuclear energy should be beneficial, responsible and sustainable, with due regard to the protection of people and the environment, non-proliferation, and security”.

 

(a) Towards better governance structure (openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence)

 

To ensure the above framework for intergenerational transmission, taking into account the requirements of robustness, equitability and social acceptance, a new type of governance structure is needed.  It should be noted that the EC established its own concept of governance in the White Paper on European Governance (2001), in which the term "European governance" refers to the rules, processes and behaviour that affect the way in which powers are exercised at European level, particularly as regards openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence. These five "principles of governance" are meant to inspire all EU policies and actions, including those in the nuclear energy domain (e.g. Euratom legislation related to nuclear safety, waste management and radiation protection, as shown in above Section 2 on Euratom Directives).

 

It should be stressed however that there are many definitions and interpretations of “principles of governance”. Here is the definition from the above EC White Paper (2001):

 

  • Openness: use a language that is accessible and comprehensible for the general public

  • Participation: create greater confidence in the end result and in the Institutions which deliver policies, through improved participation

  • Accountability: explain and take responsibility vis-à-vis those affected by your (institutional) decisions or actions

  • Effectiveness: ensure effectiveness and timeliness in your policies, deliver what is needed on the basis of clear objectives and evaluation of future impact

  • Coherence: ensure a consistent approach within a complex system through (political) leadership.

     

    In the specific domain of nuclear fission energy and ionising radiation, one of the main objectives is to continuously improve sustainability through strengthening synergy between science, stakeholders, society and policy. This raises the question of what kind of science should be developed – and how to communicate about it – to best support the decision making process ? Under the above governance framework, taking all stakeholders on-board, "best available science" should be used to support decisions, for example, in the following domains:

     

  • optimisation of energy mix, using advanced techniques for life cycle assessment (aiming at quantifying material and energy flows)
  • evaluation of socio-economic and environmental impact at large (e.g. total social cost of electricity generation = sum of private and external costs)
  • risk identification and management (especially for low-frequency high-consequence events, i.e.: severe accidents)
  • development of resilient systems (i.e.: ability of systems to function under "both expected and unexpected conditions").

 

(b) Vision Reports of stakeholders of Euratom RIE (European Technology Platforms and authoritative expert associations)

 

It is no wonder that the use of "Best available science" is discussed in the subject Vision Reports. Here are excerpts focussing on long-term expectations from Euratom and national RIE programmes.

 

  • Vision Report of "Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform" (SNE-TP)

     

    "This vision report ….  proposes a vision for the short-, medium- and long-term development of nuclear fission energy technologies, with the aim of

    -           achieving a sustainable production of nuclear energy,

    -           a significant progress in economic performance, and

    -           a continuous improvement of safety levels as well as resistance to proliferation.

    In particular, …… actions are proposed to harmonise Europe’s training and education, whilst renewing its research infrastructures.“

     

  • Vision Report of "Implementing Geological Disposal of Radioactive Waste Technology Platform" (IGD-TP)

     

    "Our vision is that by 2025,

    the first geological disposal facilities for spent fuel, high-level waste, and other long-lived radioactive waste will be operating safely in Europe".

    Our commitment is to:

    - build confidence in the safety of geological disposal solutions ……;

    -  encourage the establishment of waste management programmes that integrate geological

       disposal as the accepted option for the safe long-term management of long-lived and/or

       high-level waste;

    - facilitate access to expertise and technology …...“

     

Vision Report of "Multidisciplinary European Low Dose Initiative" (MELODI)

 

"Better quantification of risks at low dose and how they vary between individuals will impact policy in many areas, for example:

- management of spent fuel or high level waste where the concern is potential exposure of

  populations to very small doses over extremely long time periods;

- decisions on screening programmes (e.g., mammography) where a balance must be sought

  between benefits and potential harm;

- identification of those who are more "radiosensitive", through genetic screening."

 

(c) Ethics Study on energy use (EC/BEPA/EGE) as part of the "2012 Interdisciplinary Study"

 

An Ethics Study (called "Ethical framework for assessing research, production, and use of Energy") covering all energy sources was conducted independently by ethics experts (EC/BEPA/EGE) in the context of the above "2012 Interdisciplinary Study". It was published on 16 January 2013 and referred as “Ethics Opinion n° 27”. The objective was to study the impact of research into different energy sources on human well-being.

 

Ethics recommendations were made regarding “responsible use of energy”, such as:

 

 … «4. enhance the awareness of citizens (starting from an early age) regarding the need to adopt new attitudes and lifestyles for the responsible use of energy by promoting and financing educational projects and awareness-raising initiatives …»

 

Safety culture was also discussed in this Ethics Study, as shown in the following excerpt:

 

“Reducing the risks down to purely technical aspects would not fulfil the requirement for an integrated approach and comprehensive assessment. Consequences in terms of the environment and health should receive the same amount of attention as the cultural, social, economic, individual and institutional implications. A safety culture embraced by governments and operating organisations is necessary in the production, storage and distribution of energy in maintaining a low level of risk.

 

In conclusion, this Ethics Study advocates a fair balance between four criteria - access rights, security of supply, safety, and sustainability - in the light of social, environmental and economic concerns. These conclusions quite naturally are aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals proposed by the United Nations (see above Section 1 - item (i)").

 

 Second part