General Conference: Day 3 Highlights

During the plenary session of the General Conference, 41 delegations delivered statements, which are available here.

The Scientific Forum on zoonotic diseases wrapped up today. Decision makers and leading experts in virology, immunology, veterinary medicine and radiology concluded that smoother collaboration is needed in exchanging information and data, expanding the capacity for testing and detecting diseases, building strong global and national surveillance systems for detecting and monitoring pathogens, as well as integrating innovative technologies. These were key to responding to and preventing the next epidemic or pandemic with the help of nuclear science. 

The following side events took place on Wednesday:

Attendees at the Environmental Sampling and Verifying the Peaceful Use of Nuclear gained insight into how minute traces of uranium and plutonium can be detected by the IAEA and how environmental sampling supports nuclear verification activities, which contribute to international peace and security.

The event Research Reactor Database: Upgrade of the IAEA Research Reactor Information System provided information on the major upgrade of the IAEA Research Reactor Database, which contains technical and administrative information on over 840 research reactors currently in operation, under construction, planned, shut down, under decommissioning, or decommissioned in 70 countries.

Panellists taking part in the Technical Cooperation Programme in Asia and the Pacific: Major Contribution to Development discussed how collaboration in nuclear technology has contributed to socioeconomic development in Asia and the Pacific. The speakers drew the audience’s attention to the contributions of the technical cooperation programme in areas such as nuclear medicine, non-destructive testing and agricultural productivity in the region.

The structured and systematic IAEA Milestones Approach for the development of a uranium production programme was the focus of the event Milestones in the Development of National Infrastructure for the Uranium Production Cycle. The approach is designed to support IAEA Member States in developing regulatory, technical, safety, environmental and social aspects of the uranium production cycle. At the event, participants also learned about other IAEA publications under preparation and were given an overview of the e-Learning programme under development.

At the event Recent Developments in Support of the IAEA’s Assessment and Prognosis Emergency Response Role the IAEA’s upgraded Reactor Assessment Tool shared the stage with its new Database of Source Terms, two tools that support assessment and prognosis activities conducted by the IAEA and national authorities in the event of a nuclear emergency at a nuclear power plant.

The Milestones Approach for Responsible Deployment of Nuclear Technologies event showcased the most up to date guiding materials and practices for countries embarking on or expanding their nuclear power programmes, based on the Milestones Approach as well as the new IAEA publication titled Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR): Ten Years of Lessons Learned. The Milestones Approach has been used since 2007, with 32 INIR missions conducted to 22 countries. It is regularly revised, based on the lessons learned from these missions and the evolving technology landscape.

The IAEA’s newly established Platform on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and their applications was presented at the event The IAEA Platform on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and their Applications: Coordinated Support to Member States on SMR Development and Oversight for Near Term Deployment. The Platform provides experts with a one-stop shop to access the IAEA’s full array of support and expertise on SMRs. During the session participants learnt about this coordinated strategy and discussed ongoing SMR activities.

How nuclear techniques play a role in preserving cultural and natural heritage was the topic of the event Atoms for Heritage, where participants heard about how accelerator-based techniques could provide a better insight into heritage materials and objects, and be used in their preservation. This side event was part of the joint efforts of the IAEA and France to promote and enhance the applications of nuclear techniques for cultural and natural heritage characterisation and preservation.

The focus of the discussion at the Global Nuclear Safety and Security Network (GNSSN) Plenary Meeting was the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on nuclear safety and security as well as a review of the IAEA’s school of drafting regulations.

IAEA safeguards inspectors discussed their work and experience in contributing to international peace and security at the event Verifying in the Field: A Day in the Life of a Nuclear Safeguards Inspector. Safeguards inspectors are an essential part of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. By carrying out verification activities, the IAEA can provide assurances that States are not diverting nuclear material from peaceful to military purposes or misusing nuclear technology.

At the Radiological Crime Scene Management and Nuclear Forensics event delegates observed a demonstration of the procedures responders go through when arriving at a crime scene where radioactive material could be present. Organized in cooperation with the Hungarian Police and the Hungarian Centre for Energy Research, the IAEA set up a mock crime scene where radioactive material had been found. Participants then witnessed how to put on appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), approach a radiological crime scene, conduct an initial hazard assessment, use radiation detection equipment, and collect, package and document contaminated evidence.

Member States’ activities:

At the event Integrated Approach to Nuclear Safety, Nuclear Security and Radiation Protection — Opportunities and Challenges, organized by Sweden, the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, along with a panel of experts and representatives from other regulatory authorities, discussed the advantages and disadvantages of more integrated regulatory approaches versus separate regulatory approaches for nuclear safety, nuclear security and radiation protection.

Raising the voices of young people regarding nuclear energy and its role in global decarbonization efforts was the focus of the event The Role of Nuclear Energy in Combating Climate Change: Future Leaders’ Perspective, organized by the United Kingdom. Participants heard about the experiences of younger members of the nuclear workforce and why they think nuclear will play an important role in combating climate change.

The event Nuclear Science and Technology – where high living standards begin, organized by Russia, was an opportunity for discussion on how to efficiently integrate nuclear science and technology into countries’ economy, industry, science and education development strategies. Participants also discussed what research infrastructure is required for breakthrough technologies of the future and what assistance could be provided to countries in the development of their scientific and technological programmes.

The potential of advanced nuclear technologies to provide on-grid and off-grid electricity as an alternative to fossil fuel based generation was discussed at the Advanced Nuclear Technologies event, organized by the United Kingdom. The event explored the ways in which these innovations can play a part in combating climate change.

An event, New Technological Platform — the Path to Green Energy, organized by Russia, focused on the inherent potential of nuclear power to be essentially wasteless and therefore a vital option for the future global energy mix. Speakers reviewed fast reactors and associated closed nuclear fuel cycles as a new technological platform for nuclear power development in the future.

Highlighting contributions, achievements and further opportunities for international cooperation in the field of nuclear security was the aim of the event Towards Strengthening Global Nuclear Security, organized by the European Union. Participants exchanged experiences and good practices ahead of the 2022–2025 Nuclear Security Plan implementation cycle and the Conference of the Parties to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

The Netherlands hosted an event, Progress on Peaceful Uses: Vienna’s Contribution to the NPT Process, where participants discussed ways forward on the peaceful uses of nuclear technology, including the role of the IAEA. The event featured the Chairperson-designate of the Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen, and the Chairperson-designate of Main Committee III on Peaceful Uses, Ambassador Henk Cor van der Kwast, as well as senior representatives from the IAEA.

How Ghana has been able to successfully progress through Phase 1 of the IAEA Milestones Approach for the development of new nuclear power infrastructure, was the focus of its event Ghana’s Implementation of Phase 1 of the IAEA Milestones Approach. At the event, participants heard about the importance of government support, the activities of the Ghana Nuclear Power Programme Organization, the responsibilities for nuclear safety, security and safeguards; and the responsibilities and establishment of Nuclear Power Ghana, the owner/operator of the future nuclear power plant.

An event A Game Changer: Safety Forever at World’s First Geological Repository in Finland, gave participants an overview of how Finland has developed a safe and sustainable solution for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel. The event covered how the long-term safety of the solution has been ensured and how regulatory challenges related to safety, security and safeguards have been resolved in the development of this first-of-a-kind facility.

The findings of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation (VCDNP) Task Force were presented at the event A VCDNP Task Force Report on the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Science and Technology, organized by the United Arab Emirates. The Task Force was established in 2020 to examine and provide recommendations to IAEA Member States, industry and the international community for approaches that could lead to increased access to nuclear science and technologies for peaceful uses and sustainable development, while maintaining prudent non-proliferation and nuclear security objectives.

The event Enhancing Efforts in Nuclear Safety and Security and Radiological Protection in Pandemic Times: Challenges and Lessons Learned from FORO and Regulators in Ibero-America, was organized by Spain. During the session, participants discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges faced by Ibero-American Forum of Radiological and Nuclear Regulatory Agencies (FORO) members in continuing their work in nuclear safety and radiological protection in the Ibero-American region.

Other activities:

A panel of senior managers from nuclear organizations around the world shared their experiences in leading toward sustainability, and discussed competent leadership and the balance between people and engineering at the Nuclear Operators’ Forum: Organizational Excellence and Leadership for the Sustainability of Operating Nuclear Power Plants event.

During the event Briefing on Preparations for the 2022 Conference of the Parties to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material the designated Co-Presidents of the Conference of the Parties to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material provided information and updates on the preparations for the Conference, which is scheduled to take place from 28 March to 1 April 2022.

Source: International Atomic Energy Agency

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