08 Jul 2024

News from the latest ETSON Board and General Assembly meeting

From June 12 to June 14, IRSN hosted meetings of the ETSON Board and the General Assembly in Cadarache, France. Apart from the usual topics which are part of each General Assembly meeting (such as e. g. reports from its various working groups and ETSON´s budget), members discussed the following issues:

Work on new ETSON strategy

In recent times, the environment of ETSON itself as well as that of some members have changed significantly: On one side, many European countries have expressed a strong interest in building new nuclear power plants, including SMR. On the other hand, ETSON members such as IRSN and GRS are in the process of organisational and strategic adjustments. Against this background, there is a broad consensus among ETSON´s members that ETSON´s strategy shall be reviewed and potentially reshaped to enable ETSON to adequately react to the aforementioned circumstances in a sustainable way.

To start this process, the last part of the General Assembly meeting was dedicated to a respective workshop. Using a methodology developed by IRSN, gathered in smaller groups with each group being supported by one of IRSN´s specialists. In the course of the workshop, the General Assembly members´ task was first to identify current and future challenges for the European nuclear sector in general. In a second step, the groups derived challenges specifically for ETSON to allow for the third and final step: the identification of potential solutions or activities. The group´s results were presented and will be made available in written form as input for further discussions on ETSON´s future strategy.

ETSON membership in SMR Industrial Alliance

Over recent years, an increasing number of EU member states have shown significant interest in developing and deploying small modular reactors (SMRs) to reduce their future CO2 emissions. This interest has led to the allocation of specific programs and budgets and even concrete plans for SMR construction in some cases. To support and expedite the development, demonstration, and deployment of the first SMR projects in Europe by the early 2030s, the European Commission has launched the European Industrial Alliance on Small Modular Reactors. Open to industry organizations as well as the scientific community, the Alliance aims to create a strategic action plan and specific technology roadmaps. These plans shall identify the most promising, advanced, safe, and cost-effective SMR technologies eligible for alliance support and future research needs for SMRs and advanced modular reactors (AMRs).

As many of its Technical Safety Organizations (TSOs) members will likely face the task of conducting safety assessments for SMRs, ETSON has decided to join the European Industrial Alliance on Small Modular Reactors. This membership allows ETSON and its members to stay updated on the latest SMR developments, contribute their expertise on safety-related issues and research aspects, and raise safety concerns if necessary. By doing so, ETSON aims to help ensure the highest possible level of safety for European citizens. At the same time, ETSON is committed to maintaining its independence as a network of TSOs supporting their national authorities.

Since the General Assembly meeting it has been confirmed that ETSON will be represented in the Alliance´s Technical Working Groups 2 (Technology and R&D&I), 6 (Nuclear Safety and Safeguards) and 7 (Fuel Cycle and Waste Management).

Cooperation with IAEA: TSO Conference and IAEA General Conference

The support of the upcoming lnternational Conference on Enhancing Nuclear Safety and Security Through Technical and Scientific Support Organizations(TSO Conference) taking place from December 2 to December 6 in Vienna, Austria, and its engagement within the Technical and Scientific Support Organization Forum (TSOF)are integral parts of ETSON´s cooperation with the IAEA.

While the TSOF is chaired by ETSON Vice-President Michel Van haesendonck (BelV), supported by co-chair Carla Eibl-Schwäger (GRS), ETSON President Jean-Christophe Niel (IRSN) will serve as chair of the TSO Conference 2024. Furthermore, other colleagues of ETSON members will support the conference as chairs or co-chairs of the eight technical sessions. A special conference session will be dedicated to the general role of TSOs and the TSO Self-Capability Assessment (TOSCA) methodology which has been developed mainly by ETSON members.

Adopting traditional elements of the EUROSAFE conferences, the TSO conference will also feature a TSO Café and offer the stage for this year´s edition of the ETSON. While the latter will be organized by ETSON´s Junior Staff Programme (JSP), the TSO Café will inter alia comprise of booths by all ETSON members as well as an ETSON booth. Following a respective decision by the General Assembly, booth spots for all ETSON members have already been registered. Each member is now responsible for the preparation of its own booth.

On the margins of the 2024 IAEA General Conference, the ETSON Board is looking forward to meeting with IAEA officials, to further explore cooperation opportunities between IAEA and ETSON in the coming years.

Exploring potential activities on artificial intelligence and knowledge management

Considering the ever-growing relevance of the use of artificial intelligence in basically all technological areas and its possible benefits regarding knowledge management, the General Assembly decided that ETSON shall increase its efforts in this regard. As a first step, members of the Technical Board on Reactor Safety, the Knowledge Management Group and the Research Group shall discuss possible common activities within ETSON.


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