4th Multi-National Design Evaluation Programme Conference

Leveraging resources and knowledge for the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) of South Africa through the framework for regulatory co-operation and harmonisation – NNR CEO Dr Bismark Tyobeka chairs a panel discussion during the 4th Multinational Design Evaluation Programme Conference (MDEP).

The 4th Multi-National Design Evaluation Programme Conference (MDEP) on New Reactor Design Activities was hosted by the United Kingdom Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London United Kingdom from 12-13 September 2017.

In attendance were approximately 100 delegates representing nuclear regulators, vendors, utilities as well as nuclear manufacturing companies from Canada, People’s Republic of China, Finland, France, Hungary, India, Japan, Korea, Russian Federation, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.

The conference discussed achievements of the MDEP programme over the past two years, mostly aimed at harmonising, standardising where possible, or reconciling regulatory approaches for effective and efficient nuclear reactor design assessment process. Topics ranging from Digital Instrumentation and Control, Vendor Inspections, Codes and Standards as well as effectiveness and impact of MDEP interactions on the safety of new reactor designs were discussed.

The NNR CEO, Dr Bismark Tyobeka chaired a panel discussion on “The impact of MDEP interactions on the safety of new reactor designs” in which regulators and design organisation representatives participated. Dr Tyobeka’s impressions are summarized as follows: It was clear from the outcomes of the session that both nuclear regulators and reactor design organisations have derived great value from MDEP activities. One popular product outcome from MDEP for all Design Specific Working Groups clearly is the development and publication of so-called common position papers on specific issues such as the post-Fukushima actions for all designs, or on codes and standards etc. These are great efforts by both vendors and regulators to converge on the understanding of certain issues associated with each of the designs evaluated by the MDEP programme and I think the NNR of South Africa is privileged to be a member of this group, particularly as we prepare for new build ourselves”.

The overall outcome of the conference was that all members support the continuation of the MDEP programme and believe that in many ways it has positively impacted how the design reviews in different countries have been carried out, and has brought closer a meeting of minds between regulators and design organisations on design safety issues.

The meeting of MDEP Policy Group Members took place on the 14 September 2017 and amongst other milestones of the meeting was the resolution to form a new Design Specific Working Group based on the Hualong-1 or HPR1000 reactor design proposed by the NNSA of China. For the first time, the NNR of South Africa has joined a design specific working group, the HPR1000, alongside China and the ONR of the UK. This development will enable NNR experts to participate for the first time in all design review activities, thereby gaining insights into the intricacies of the HPR1000 design, which is a typical Generation 3 design, similar to the designs under consideration for new build in South Africa. It is a unique opportunity to strengthen the expertise of the NNR as well as for assessing the adequacy of the regulatory framework and strategy to license a new reactor design in South Africa after a decision on the technology selection is finalised by the Government.

Another milestone approved by the Policy Group Meeting is the consideration of Argentina as a new member of MDEP. The ARN of Argentina presented its proposal to join the MDEP and its further intention to join the HPR1000 Design Working Group upon admission into MDEP. It is expected that the formalities of Argentina’s admission as a new member of MDEP will be concluded in a few weeks or months.

About the Multinational Design Evaluation Programme (MDEP)

MDEP was established in 2006 as a multinational initiative to develop innovative approaches to leverage the resources and knowledge of the national regulatory authorities that are currently or will be tasked with the review of new nuclear power reactor designs. The nuclear regulatory authorities of 15 countries participate in MDEP, which includes 5 design-specific working groups and 3 issue-specific working groups. The Nuclear Energy Agency facilitates MDEP activities by providing technical secretariat services for the programme. The MDEP Policy Group (PG) and the Steering Technical Committee (STC) oversee the programme.