Richard A. Meserve
Dædalus, Fall 2009
Today, there are approximately 440 nuclear power plants (NPPs) around the
globe contributing roughly 16 percent of the world’s total supply of electrical
energy, and the contribution from nuclear power is likely to grow in the years ahead.1
Energy is an essential underpinning for economic growth, and as the developing world
advances, its demand for energy is projected to grow significantly. At the same time,
the carbon-intensive energy sources the world now relies on – chiefly coal, petroleum,
and natural gas – pose a grave threat because the growing concentrations of carbon
dioxide in the atmosphere are bringing about climate change and ocean acidification.
As a result, the world needs to turn to energy sources that are substantially carbon
free. Nuclear power, by far the most significant current source of green house gas-free energy, must play an important part in the world’s response to the increasing
concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In addition, volatile fossil
fuel prices, coupled with concerns about the security of oil and gas supplies, enhance
interest in energy sources that do not pose the same costs and risks. Nuclear technology
is attractive in this regard, too, because fuel costs are only a slight component
to the costs of nuclear energy (most of the costs arise from the amortization of
the plant) and because supplies of uranium are abundant and secure.
The current widespread interest in nuclear technology has been described as a “nuclear
renaissance.” Construction of new plants is under way or is contemplated around
the globe. Some Asian countries have steadily pursued nuclear construction over
the past few decades, and several are significantly accelerating their efforts. Many
European countries that had turned away from nuclear power in the aftermath of the
Chernobyl accident are reconsidering their positions and are either undertaking
or exploring new construction. Although no generating company in the United States
has placed an order for a new plant for more than 30 years, the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission (NRC) has received 17 applications for combined construction-and-operating
licenses for 26 plants, and it expects several more applications in the years ahead.
Perhaps most important, many countries that do not currently have NPPs have
expressed interest in acquiring one. (These countries are the so-called new entrants.)
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported that some 60 such
countries have explored nuclear power in recent years, and that as many as 20 are
seriously interested in proceeding with NNPs. No doubt, the current worldwide
economic decline will slow major projects of all kinds. Nuclear power is a capital
intensive activity, and therefore financing a new plant will be a difficult undertaking
until the economy recovers. Nonetheless, the pressures that created interest in
nuclear power persist, and we should anticipate that significant new construction
probably will occur around the world over the next decade or two.
The growth of nuclear power presents challenges. One, of course, is the concern
that the spread of nuclear technology could enable more countries to pursue nuclear
weapons. Reactors are not the principal concern in this regard; rather, expansion
of nuclear power might result in new countries undertaking fuel-cycle activities
that present proliferation threats. The need for an assured fuel supply could cause
more countries to develop their own uranium enrichment capacity. (Most commercial
NPPs require fuel enriched in the isotope uranium-235 to a level of 4 to 5
percent; natural uranium has 0.7 percent uranium-235.) Although commercial nuclear
fuel is not usable in a weapon, the technology to enrich uranium to the level needed
for fuel could be applied to produce highly enriched uranium (above 20 percent uranium-235) – a weapons-usable material. Moreover, the used fuel from NPP operations
can be chemically reprocessed to recover plutonium, another weapons-usable material.
Because the principal barrier to the construction of a nuclear weapon is the challenge
of obtaining the necessary weapons-usable material, expanded enrichment or reprocessing
capacity heightens the proliferation risk, a significant concern that is discussed
by other contributors in this volume.
The public also has particular concerns about the safety and security risks that
attend nuclear power. We must heed these concerns not only because the public who
might be affected by an accidental release from a NPP must be protected, but
also because the prospects for nuclear power everywhere would be influenced by the
public clamor following a serious nuclear event anywhere.
The history of nuclear power reinforces the need to pay special attention to safety.
In 1979, operators at the Three Mile Island Plant in Pennsylvania failed to respond
appropriately to a pressure relief valve on a reactor that was stuck in the open
position, resulting in the venting of coolant. There was extensive melting of fuel,
and, in effect, the reactor was destroyed. But no radioactive materials in excess
of regulatory limits were emitted into the environment because the containment structure
that surrounded the reactor prevented uncontrolled releases. The Russian RBMK
reactor at the Chernobyl Power Plant in the Ukraine did not have a containment system,
with the result that, in 1986, a runaway reactor not only destroyed the reactor,
but also released extensive radioactive materials into the environment, spreading
radioactive materials across Europe. Understandably, these events dampened enthusiasm
for nuclear power in the United States and Europe in subsequent years.
Events such as these reinforce the obligation of all those associated with nuclear
power – operators, regulators, vendors, and contractors – to be ever-vigilant. Fortunately,
the recent safety record has, in the main, been good. Plant-based safety indicators
(for example, measures of such things as actuation of reactor safety equipment,
availability of safety-related equipment, releases of radiation, worker exposure,
and unplanned shutdowns) have shown reasonably steady improvement for more than
a decade. These improvements, attributable to greater attention to operations, maintenance,
training, advances in diagnostic and assessment technology, and system upgrades,
are impressive and, as a general matter, reassuring.
Recent experience also shows that strong economic performance correlates with strong
safety performance. In the United States, for example, the improvement in safety
indicators coincided with a significant improvement in capacity factors (a measure
of the energy production actually achieved weighed against the theoretical maximum
from continuous full-power operation). This correlation isn’t accidental: the attention
to detail that improves safety also leads to plant availability and stronger economic
Nevertheless, noteworthy safety lapses continue to occur at NPPs around the
globe, including at reactors in countries with extensive operational experience
and strong regulatory capabilities. None of the recent events has resulted in a
substantial off-site release of radioactivity,3 but these events reinforce the
reality that assuring safety is hard work. It must be embedded in the management
and cultural practices of both operators and regulators; it is an obligation that
demands constant attention.
One lesson from years of operations is that the operator must assume the primary
obligation for assuring safety. The operator controls what happens in the plant
and, as a result, can best assure continuing safe performance. The operator must
have the engineering, financial, and management capability to ensure not only that
the plant is built and operated in a safe fashion, but also that it operates with
safety as the highest priority. In turn, a national nuclear safety regulator undertakes
the reinforcement and policing of the operator, defining the operator’s responsibilities
and seeking to ensure that those responsibilities are being met. The regulator should
be independent, capable, and sufficiently staffed and funded to perform its functions.
Every regulator should aspire to be tough, but fair, to fulfill its obligations and
to meet public expectations.
Although operators and national regulators play the essential roles, there is an
important backstop to the licensee and regulator: the global nuclear safety regime.
The regime is a collective international enterprise that sets a level of performance
expected of all operators and regulators, monitors that performance, and builds
competence and capability among both operators and national regulators. This global
nuclear safety regime will be increasingly important as the nuclear renaissance
takes full flower.
Ad hoc in nature, the regime has grown and developed over many years. It is made
up of several components:
Intergovernmental organizations such as the IAEA and the Nuclear Energy
Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
(OECD). The IAEA is a UN organization with responsibilities for
nonproliferation, the safety and security of nuclear facilities, and the peaceful
application of nuclear technology. In the safety and security arena, it provides
standards and, at the request of a member country, inspections and advice on nuclear
activities. The NEA is involved in international cooperative safety research
and in the study of safety and regulatory issues. The IAEA and NEA jointly
operate an international system for the exchange of operating experience.
Multinational networks among regulators, including the International Nuclear Regulators
Association and the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association. These networks
encourage regulators to exchange views and information and coordinate activities.
Multinational networks among operators, the most important of which is the World
Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). Among other activities, WANO
provides peer reviews of plant operations and serves as a clearinghouse for the
exchange of operating information between operators. WANO assessments and
advice are held confidential. The World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS)
was recently created to serve a similar function on security-related matters at
Stakeholders in the international nuclear industry. The vendors that design and
sell NPPs are international businesses that market their products throughout the
world. Similarly, the architect-engineering firms and the suppliers of equipment
and services are worldwide enterprises. These enterprises provide a means for transferring
knowledge from country to country.
Multinational networks among scientists and engineers. Scientific and engineering
societies encourage communication among experts in many nations.
Standard development organizations – for example, the American Society of Mechanical
Engineers (ASME), IEEE (formerly known as the Institute of Electrical
and Electronics Engineers), and the American Nuclear Society (ANS) – and their
interfaces with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
Parts and components may originate in many different countries, and thus compliance
with detailed standards is an important means of assuring appropriate quality.
Nongovernmental organizations and the international press. Nuclear activities
attract attention and interest around the globe, including from NGOs and the
press. This attention provides an important stimulus for change.
A framework of international conventions, international safety standards, codes
of conduct, joint projects, and international conferences and workshops holds the
system together. These elements together provide the context in which every national
nuclear program operates. (See Figure 1.)
Global Nuclear Safety Regime
Source: IAEA, Strengthening the Global Nuclear Safety Regime (INSAG
21), 2006. Reprinted with permission from the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Several overlapping factors serve to make the examination and revitalization of
the global nuclear safety regime a pressing obligation. First, every nation’s reliance
on nuclear power is to some extent hostage to safety performance elsewhere in the
world; a nuclear accident anywhere will have significant consequences everywhere,
if only through an indirect impact on public opinion. Thus each country currently
using or contemplating nuclear power has an interest in ensuring that there is attention
to nuclear safety everywhere. The overall global improvement in safety performance
does not tell the whole, or even the most crucial element of the story. The web
of nuclear safety is no stronger than its weakest link: all are vulnerable to the
capabilities of the weakest performers. It is in the interest of all to identify
and help those most in need of strengthening their safety performance.
The need for such international assistance is growing. As noted above, there is
the prospect of substantial numbers of new entrants and of increasing numbers of
NPPs around the globe. Many of the new entrants, by definition, have limited
experience with nuclear energy, and nearly all lack the extensive national infrastructure
common in most countries currently with NPPs. Constructing and operating these
new NPPs in a safe fashion demands a strengthened international backstop.
Moreover, many currently operating plants were built years ago and are nearing the
end of their originally anticipated lifetime of 40 years or so. The plants have
had the benefit of detailed surveillance, maintenance, and replacement of components over those years, and many of them are running reliably and economically.
As a result, operators in several countries are seeking to extend operations to
60 years and some are raising the prospect of operation for as long as 80 years.
But aging plants present unique safety challenges because plants and equipment can
deteriorate over time through mechanisms that may not yet be fully understood (for
example, stress corrosion cracking); because spare parts may be difficult to find;
and because older plants may not have all of the safety features of more modern
designs. The continuing operation of older plants thus requires careful attention
to aging mechanisms, with heightened attention over time to surveillance, preventive
maintenance, and component replacement. Here again, the international system should
help ensure that the safety margins of aging plants are maintained.
Second, the construction and servicing of NPPs has become a global enterprise,
with vendors and contractors engaged around the world. Consequently, efficiencies
and safety advantages have arisen from avoiding needless country specific differences
that require custom design modifications or that present unique operational challenges.
Nuclear power must compete in the economic marketplace with other sources of energy,
and the legal regime should further, rather than retard, economic efficiency, while
simultaneously ensuring adequate safety. The global safety regime should reflect
and respond to the changing structure of the industry by encouraging greater international
Finally, there is also the simple reality that we have much to learn from each other.
One of the most important ways to anticipate and prevent possible problems is to
analyze and learn from the relevant experience of others, and to put in place anticipatory
or corrective measures to forestall an accident. We now have about 13,000 reactor-years
of experience around the world, and we benefit from putting systems in place to share
the knowledge arising from that experience. Moreover, benefits are obtained by coordinating
research activities and sharing research results, thereby reducing the cost of research
to each participant and helping to ensure that all benefit from the growth in knowledge.
The global safety regime should encourage the sharing of knowledge and nurture its
Any one of these reasons is sufficient by itself to justify the careful scrutiny
of the global safety regime. Taken together, they offer a compelling argument for
review. But what should change?
As noted above, the existing legal regime is founded on the fundamental obligation
of operators to ensure safety, subject to rigorous oversight by a national
regulatory entity exercising sovereign authority to protect the public health and
safety. The national programs are augmented by an overlay of assistance provided
by and through a variety of international organizations, chief among them the
IAEA, the NEA, and WANO. But the decisions of each nation-state largely
determine the extent and scope of international engagement.
One might imagine a different regime in which an international regulator with sweeping
transnational authority ensures the adequacy of licensees’ safety performance. Such
an approach might be seen as a way both to ensure that all nuclear activities, regardless
of location, conform to safety standards as well as to facilitate the harnessing
of safety capabilities around the globe in an efficient and effective manner. It
is very unlikely, however, that such a regime will soon be established, at least
not in an extreme form, in which an international regulator displaces national regulators.
Certainly, the population in the vicinity of a nuclear facility needs to be assured
that its safety is guaranteed by a politically responsive body, rather than a distant
and unaccountable international regulator. And the strategic importance of energy
supply makes it doubtful that any nation would willingly surrender its authority
over the continued operation of critical energy infrastructure, such as a
NPP. Moreover, the safety system must operate within each nation’s legal, economic,
and social culture; adaptations of regulatory systems to fit local conditions are
probably necessary in any event.
Accordingly, a global safety regime premised on a single and strong international
regulator is implausible, perhaps even undesirable. This is not to deny, however,
that we should encourage regional networks among regulators to share resources and
capabilities, or that in the long term we should seek to establish the capacity
of the IAEA to inspect and police the performance of the national safety systems,
to ensure that at least minimum safety standards are achieved. The IAEA would
then have strengthened capacity to ensure that the national systems were functioning
At the moment, the IAEA does not have the power to undertake independent safety
inspections absent the invitation of the member state, or the authority even to
recommend sanctions for poor performance. Given safety’s importance, the objective
over time should be to enhance the IAEA’s power to assure safety by giving
the IAEA powers in the safety arena that are analogous to its powers on safeguards
matters under the Additional Protocol – that is, the power to inspect nuclear facilities
at a time of its choosing and to establish and seek compliance with standards. Because
the national regulator will continue to have ongoing regulatory responsibilities,
the focus of IAEA’s increased role would be to monitor and assess the adequacy
of the national regulator’s efforts. An amendment of the Convention on Nuclear Safety
(CNS) (discussed below) would provide the logical vehicle for the institution
of these powers.
Establishing such strengthened inspection and enforcement authority would likely
take many years of difficult negotiation and an arduous and time-consuming process
to bring an amendment of the CNS into force. The difficulty of establishing
the widespread implementation of the Additional Protocol in the safeguards arena
illustrates the challenge that should be expected. In the meantime, however, the
existing system can and should be reinforced and expanded in various ways. We must
proceed now to augment national systems with a stronger overlay of international
cooperation and engagement.
First, the safety services offered by the IAEA need to be enhanced. These
services, which include voluntary inspections of nuclear facilities and of regulatory
systems, currently receive only about 8 percent of the IAEA’s regular budget.
Given the need to assist the new entrants in establishing and maintaining appropriate
national safety systems, the IAEA effort should grow significantly. There is
an immediate need to provide training facilities for the staff of the operating
companies and the regulatory organizations that will carry the primary responsibility
for assuring safety at these new facilities. The IAEA (among others) has a
very important role to play in making certain that the new entrants have the capacity
and knowledge to fulfill their responsibilities.
Second, international security-related services need to be strengthened and coordinated
with safety. Safety is focused on accidental events whereas, in the case of
NPPs, security is aimed principally at preventing acts of sabotage that could result
in releases of radioactive materials.4 (Security at fuel-cycle facilities also
focuses on the prevention of the theft of nuclear materials.) The security of
NPPs has appropriately received greatly increased attention in the aftermath of
the 9/11 attacks.
The security challenge will grow with the advent of more NPPs and more fuel-cycle
facilities in more places. But the international network of security-related services,
still in development, has not achieved the maturity that surrounds safety. Because
of the need to keep security-related information confidential, there are challenges
in designing and implementing international programs. This should be given high
Safety and security are linked to each other. Common principles apply to both safety
and security, such as a philosophy of defense in depth. The two objectives can reinforce
each other: the massive structures of reinforced concrete and steel, for example,
serve both safety and security objectives. But occasionally, plant features and
operational practices that result from safety considerations conflict with those
that serve security purposes. Access controls that are imposed for security reasons
can inhibit safety, limiting access for emergency response or maintenance or for
egress in the event of a fire or explosion. Similarly, if there were an attack, safety
considerations may require access to an area at exactly the time that the security
forces might seek to deny access. In short, the synergy and the antagonism between
safety and security require careful evaluation.
This reality has national and international implications. At the national level,
although the evaluation of security threats might appropriately be the responsibility
of an intelligence or police organization, authority to determine the actions necessary
to ensure both safety and security should be vested in a single body, so that safety
and security are weighed at the same time and an appropriate balance is found. At
the international level, the guidance and assistance that are now commonplace in
the safety arena should be expanded to cover security, in a way that integrates
security and safety advice. Both the IAEA and WINS should play a role
in assuring that appropriate integration occurs.
Third, a universal, effective, and open network for sharing operating experience
should be established to promote communication about near misses, design deficiencies,
and even low-level operational events. Analysis of such occurrences can indicate
ways of avoiding a serious accident. Currently, regulators and operators report
safety-related information through existing global systems. The IAEA and
NEA jointly operate an Incident Reporting System (IRS) that is available to
the world’s regulators; operators have access to operating information, on a private
and confidential basis, from WANO. But not all relevant events and observations
are reported, particularly to IRS. Moreover, there are inadequate mechanisms
to sort and analyze the information, to distill and prioritize the lessons that
should be learned, and to propagate those lessons widely in a user-friendly fashion.
There is a need to find the means to preserve and facilitate access to the accumulated
knowledge from operational experience in order to further the common interest in
avoiding events that could lead to accidents. Access to such information is particularly
important for the new entrant countries, so that they do not have to repeat the
hard-learned lessons of their predecessors in the nuclear enterprise.
Fourth, to enhance the assurance of safety, national safety regulations should be
harmonized, so that minimum requirements are met everywhere and greater compatibility
is facilitated. The IAEA has developed three layers of documents – Safety Fundamentals,
Safety Requirements, and Safety Guides – that provide a widely accepted foundation
for nuclear safety and now serve as key references for national requirements. Safety
Fundamentals establish the foundation that must be met without exceptions. Safety
Requirements set mandates for new facilities and new activities, while setting a
compliance target for existing facilities and activities to be met over time, if
it is reasonable to do so. Safety Guides provide practical guidance on the state
of the art in nuclear safety, but acknowledge that different means of providing
equivalent safety are acceptable. While rigid application of IAEA safety standards
may not be possible, particularly for existing facilities, IAEA standards
do provide a common approach to which nations should be encouraged to conform, to
the extent practical. The IAEA should pursue full awareness of and competence
in the application of these standards.
At the same time, IAEA safety standards should be encouraged to evolve in
two different directions. On the one hand, we should seek a global consensus on
fundamental principles – how safe is safe enough – to guide the articulation of general
safety goals, the expectations for new plants, and the requirements for safety improvements
in older plants. This effort would seek to establish enduring fundamental goals,
thereby serving the overall objectives of transparency, adequacy, stability, and
harmonization. Compatibility can never be achieved unless there is common agreement
on the fundamental goals.
On the other hand, the standards should be made sufficiently concrete, providing
unambiguous guidance on the accepted and best practices in the multitude of areas
in need of regulatory guidance. Again, compatibility can only be expected if the
practical implications of the requirements are spelled out. However, safety standards
must evolve to accommodate innovative new reactor designs. The existing standards,
understandably, were written with current light water reactors in mind, and many
of the requirements may not be appropriate, at least in their current form, for
some of the new reactor designs being contemplated. (For example, the Safety Requirements
document on design explicitly states in its introduction that it applies primarily
to water-cooled reactors; similar statements are found in several of the supporting
safety guides.) While the key elements of requirements can certainly be applied
by analogy in some cases to different types of reactors, it would be beneficial to
define a deeper set of principles so that the regulatory system can more readily
accommodate, even encourage, designs that offer improved safety and other advantages.
Fifth, certain essential characteristics that extend beyond standards, but that
are the foundation for success in achieving safety, must be encouraged. Prime among
these is encouragement of an appropriate “safety culture”: the cluster of organizational
and individual elements that are fundamental to the achievement of safety. Organizational
elements include the recognition by management that safety is the highest priority,
as well as a commitment by management to organizational effectiveness, successful
communications, a capacity to learn and adapt, and a workplace culture that encourages
the identification of safety issues. Individual elements include personal accountability,
a questioning attitude, and procedural adherence. These elements are difficult to
define crisply and, hence, to regulate effectively. But they are foundational to
safe operations, and the global nuclear safety regime should encourage their propagation
everywhere. Similarly, the safety regime should encourage transparency, stability,
practicality, and competence. Greater efforts must be undertaken to build these
characteristics into regulatory and operator organizations around the world.
Sixth, while pursuing the amendment of the CNS along the lines described above,
its current processes could be augmented without a formal amendment. The CNS
calls for a meeting of parties at three-year intervals in which each state provides
a report on its compliance with the various commitments set out in the Convention.
Each national report is subject to peer review by the other parties, often resulting
in recommendations for further improvement. The Convention offers no enforcement
mechanism beyond the obligation to endure possible criticism from others in the
Although the CNS has furthered its original purpose of promoting upgrades
in national safety systems, the process still needs to be strengthened and refined.
The review process could be more probing, perhaps by focusing on the most important
safety issues, rather than by emphasizing a wide (and necessarily superficial) survey
that is today’s norm. The IAEA now reports to the meeting of the parties on
conclusions drawn from its safety review missions and services, but the IAEA
could contribute more centrally. The IAEA’s report might, for example, provide
more detail and be given more focused attention by the parties, perhaps by requiring
affected nations to respond to the IAEA’s observations. Perhaps most fundamentally,
the perspective of the parties should change: rather than seeking to prove its own
excellence in the review process, each country should instead welcome productive
criticism and thereby collect useful ideas and lessons for safety enhancements.
The questioning and open attitude that regulators expect of their licensees might
also become the expected behavior of the parties in the review meetings.
Seventh, multinational design evaluation programs should be encouraged. As noted
previously, the nuclear industry has become more concentrated, with the result that
a small group of vendors seeks to construct NPPs around the globe. A group
of countries is coordinating the evaluation of the designs, with the NEA serving
as the secretariat for the group. Each national regulator retains its autonomous
licensing authority, but can obtain guidance and information from the international
evaluation process. This effort should be encouraged and expanded, with the aim
to facilitate the construction of a given design in more than one country with only
necessary modifications to accommodate local circumstances.5 The multinational process
facilitates the coordination of safety assessments, perhaps enabling more complete
and thorough assessments than any one country could accomplish. It would also promote
international trade, by bringing cost savings to the parties involved in licensing
the plants and in constructing them. And it would further the general goal of advancing
greater international consistency, thereby avoiding questions that may reasonably
arise if significant differences in design were to be required from country to country.
Of course, because each country will retain its licensing authority, the final licensing
actions must be taken at a national level. The coordination of design evaluation
thus should not be seen to challenge the sovereign authority of national regulators.
Clearly, site- or country-specific issues must be taken into account separately
in connection with each construction application – issues such as site-related risk
factors (for example, earthquake risk), reliability of off-site power, and the licensee’s
capability to build, operate, and maintain the plant. Indeed, the national regulator
must be fully engaged in the details of design, construction, and operation if it
is to be effective in the oversight of the plant. Nonetheless, a coordinated international
design evaluation would streamline and strengthen the process, augmenting the capacities
that any particular regulator could bring to bear.
At the same time, because the nuclear industry is part of a world economy in which
production capabilities are globally interconnected, parts and components for nuclear
plants may come from many areas of the world. The quality-assurance standards for
nuclear plants are high, but no one regulator, vendor, or operator can readily have
scrutiny over the quality of all these parts and components. As a result, there
is a need for careful coordination among regulators around the globe to develop
global standards and to ensure that those standards are being met.
Finally, increased efforts should be undertaken to advance international cooperation
on research and development related to the safety performance of NPPs. Many
existing plants were licensed in the years before there was extensive experience
with nuclear power. Licensing decisions were guided by conservative engineering
judgment and the application of fundamental design principles (such as defense in
depth) to assure a robust capacity to mitigate or prevent accidents. But much has
been learned over the years, and the resulting insights should be applied more effectively
than is currently the case in many countries. For example, the insights from both
probabilistic and deterministic analyses should be brought together and applied
so as to assure focused attention on safety in all important areas. An international
consensus on the application of these tools should be developed, to facilitate common
understandings and standardized approaches. Moreover, coordinated research programs
to increase knowledge bearing on advanced designs will ensure that necessary information
is in place in time to facilitate decision-making.
There are opportunities for other international research activities that will benefit
all. For example, aging phenomena that will affect performance of NPPs are
not well understood at a fundamental level and, absent research, it is not clear
that these issues will be dealt with properly. Further advances in nondestructive
monitoring techniques will enhance the capacity to assess aging facilities. And
although digital instrumentation and control offers great opportunities for safety
improvements, there is a need for research to understand more deeply the safety
implications of the increased reliance on digital systems. Many other such research
opportunities present themselves.
The global nuclear safety regime provides an important and largely unrecognized
means for helping to assure the safety of existing and future NPPs. It will
have growing importance in the coming years, and there are opportunities for its
significant improvement. These opportunities should be pursued in order to ensure
that nuclear technology can be appropriately harnessed for the benefit of all humankind.