Views from ...
Optimizing the European Nuclear Supply Chain
Peter Tuominen, Chair of FORATOM’s Supply Chain Optimisation Working Group, Vice President, Nuclear Safety Assurance, Fortum Power and Heat Oy
Mitigation of climate change is one of the most urgent challenges Europe and the whole world are currently facing. The European Union has set up ambitious targets to tackle this issue and ensure that the ongoing trend can be reversed. Nuclear power is a stable, reliable and clean source of energy – recognized in many expert studies as a crucial contributor to the fight against climate change. Therefore, it should play an important role in the journey towards a carbon neutral Europe.
Nuclear energy provides many important benefits. Safety, reliability and competitiveness are corner stones of our industry. Many European nuclear operators have completed and/or will in the future undertake modernization projects. While carrying out these activities, we – as the nuclear industry – have recognized that the use of high-quality industrial grade items would strongly support the industry’s approach to continuously improve safety and performance at our plants. In addition, we have identified the need to secure a strong and diversified supply chain for long-term sustainability and to enable greater opportunities for new build projects.
Our internal processes, as well as regulatory requirements, have in some cases hindered us from utilizing widely accepted and proven modern technology. This has led some suppliers to drop support for our industry, for example by abandoning their nuclear certification programs or the supply of certain product lines. Also, cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming qualification processes have in some cases made safety and modernization projects especially challenging. These experiences have generated a need to further develop our approach to the use of high-quality industrial grade items. Especially in relation to items which are manufactured according to well established standards for use in other industries which require high levels of safety, quality and reliability.
I am convinced that we need to further develop our industry’s internal qualification processes as well as the regulatory framework to better support the use of high-quality industrial grade items in safety classified applications. Equally, we need to carefully study how we as an industry can support our supply chain and resolve obsolescence issues. Based on experience, it often seems to be a better option from a safety and quality perspective to use serially manufactured high-quality items, instead of using tailor-made first-of-a-kind items, requiring the manufacturer to deviate from their well-established manufacturing, assembly and testing processes. These serial items provide more opportunity when replacement parts are required thus avoiding modifications, uncertainties with new components, additional training of personnel and more elaborate bespoke writing procedures. This is just one step toward a harmonisation of the nuclear industry.
The European nuclear industry is aware of the current challenges and opportunities. That is why FORATOM’s Supply Chain Optimisation Working Group is looking into ways of enabling the use of high-quality industrial grade items in safety applications, and to secure a strong and diversified supply chain in the long term. The working group has recently published its first report. The three most important conclusions are that we as an industry need to:
- Assess how our companies’ internal processes and procedures could better support the use of high-quality industrial grade items in safety related applications.
- Look at how we can better help and support our supply chain in becoming more efficient.
- Develop a guideline with a common methodology for the acceptance of high-quality industrial grade items in certain safety classified applications. The guideline will be based on international experience and take into account European specificities.
However, this approach is not a ‘one size fits all’ solution as certain components will still need to be manufactured according to nuclear safety standards. For example, items related to reactor and primary circuit will certainly fall within nuclear grade items. But there are many other safety-related applications where the use of serially manufactured high-quality industrial grade items can be enabled, most notably within the lower safety classes. Our industry already has a strong track record in terms of using serially manufactured high-quality industrial grade items in safety related applications in, for example, Canada, Slovenia, Spain, South Korea or the US.
I am convinced that we, the industry, in close interaction with the regulatory community, the supply chain, EU decision makers and other stakeholders can develop a solid approach to support the acceptance of high-quality industrial items in our nuclear installations.