SAFER2028 – New Finnish Nuclear Safety Research Programme has started
National nuclear safety research programmes have been organised in Finland since the 1990s with funding from the National Nuclear Waste Management Fund (VYR). This year, the tradition is continued with SAFER2028 (National Nuclear Safety and Waste Management Research Programme 2023-2028). VTT is coordinating the research programme and also performs a large share of the actual research work, which helps the organisation ensure the development and maintenance of critical competences in nuclear safety.
SAFER2028 combines nuclear power plant safety research with nuclear waste management research, and hopefully there will be synergies between the two research areas. Another benefit of the merge of research topics should be that many research areas that previously fell in-between the focus areas, such as fuel in all phases of its lifecycle, will now be more strongly included. The societal research that has long been a part of nuclear waste management research can now be extended to nuclear energy, which will provide new opportunities for e.g., the examination of acceptability issues related to SMR reactors.
The research programme is launched at a time when the world, and Europe in particular, is undergoing a major energy transformation. The acceptability of nuclear power in Finland is exceptionally high and various operators have announced plans related to SMR reactors. VTT is developing their own reactor concept independently of SAFER2028, but e.g. SMR reactor waste management topics are studied in the frame of SAFER2028.
The start of SAFER2028 has not been entirely easy. After the Hanhikivi 1 NPP project in Finland was cancelled, the funding of the research programme was decreased in comparison to previous programmes. The impact fell particularly on nuclear power plant safety research. However, there is cause to be optimistic about the future of nuclear safety research and SAFER2028. The planned SMR projects and the increasingly visible importance of nuclear energy in the society hopefully leads to new resources for research.