Helping International Regulators Prepare for their Nuclear Power Future

Eric Stahl
International Relations Officer

Building the infrastructure to regulate a nuclear power program is a complex process. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s “Milestones Approach” notes that, depending on resources, it can take a country 15 years or more to go from considering a nuclear power program to the operation of its first plant.

IAEA_404With more than four decades of regulating the world’s largest nuclear power program, the NRC has a great deal of nuclear safety and security experience to offer. Understandably, many countries around the world would like to leverage our knowledge as they develop and expand their own regulatory programs.

In 2014, the Commission issued an International Policy Statement, noting international activities are integral to the NRC’s public health, safety and security mission and directly support U.S. foreign policy objectives. One key element in this policy is the NRC’s role of “providing international assistance to foreign regulatory counterparts for improving safety and security of civilian uses of radioactive materials.”

One mechanism for providing this assistance is the NRC’s International Regulatory Development Partnership. The IRDP assists countries considering a nuclear power program by helping them build the necessary infrastructure to provide independent and expert regulation.

Through the Partnership, NRC staff and contractors work with our counterparts to ensure that the country has a legal framework in place for nuclear power oversight. In addition, IRDP consultants advise national regulators about how to effectively structure their organization and the types of experts needed for a regulatory authority. Lastly, the Partnership provides technical training on a wide variety of new reactor topics, including siting requirements, construction and vendor inspections, and environmental impacts.

Since its creation in 2008, the IRDP has assisted more than a dozen countries and regional networks in Africa, Central and Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe.

Although many countries have shown an interest in the Partnership, only a few are at a point where IRDP activities can make a substantive difference in their national programs. The NRC focuses the Partnership’s resources in countries where it can have a real impact.

Even with the NRC’s help, our regulatory partners have a long road ahead of them, building the infrastructure necessary to provide oversight of their country’s nuclear power programs. The IRDP makes that road a little less bumpy.

And it’s in everyone’s best interest for countries to have robust regulation of nuclear materials.

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