Esa Hyvärinen, who took up the role on 1 January, said the European nuclear industry is already working on “developing concrete solutions” with regard to standardisation and harmonisation.
One key area is the harmonisation of nuclear safety requirements across the bloc’s regulators as a prerequisite for the potential approval of standard nuclear power plant designs in more than one country.
Mr Hyvärinen said that to improve nuclear energy’s competitiveness the industry must address nuclear energy’s whole-life cycle. Maintaining a qualified nuclear supply industry is essential. This challenge has to be addressed by the industry, but the success of the process will also require the involvement of regulators and lawmakers, he said.
“The key challenge is how to improve nuclear energy’s competitiveness by reducing the current costs while at the same time maintaining the highest level of safety. This applies to the existing fleet, LTO [long-term operation] and new-build projects.”
He said the other big challenge the European nuclear industry will have to face is the management of used fuel, which is dealt with in line with the EU’s directive on the responsible and safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.
The industry maintains the highest safety standards, but has still has not been able to communicate clearly enough to the public and decision makers that significant progress has been made on the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste.
“I hope that the Finnish Onkalo project can be used as an example to convince people that spent nuclear fuel can be managed in a sustainable manner,” Mr Hyvärinen said.
Finland has been carrying out research into final disposal at Onkalo since the 1970s. In June 2019 Finnish nuclear waste management company Posiva said it was beginning construction of a €500m encapsulation plant and final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel at Olkiluoto in the southwest of Finland.
The start of work mean Finland became the first country in the world to begin construction of a final repository for used nuclear fuel.