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The Nuclear Energy Agency


The Nuclear Energy Agency

The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) was established in 1958 as a specialized agency under the OECD umbrella, in order to ensure the safety of nuclear-fueled power plants. To this purpose it carries out an information and coordination role of all engineering and regulatory activities in the field of nuclear technologies for energy purposes.

NEA’s working groups and committees deal with all aspects of the life cycles of nuclear plants; from the safety of fossil fuel transportation to international radio-protection regulations; from nuclear sites’ licensing procedures to the assessment of their economic impact; from safety procedures to accident prevention and future plants’ technological prospects.

The NEA keeps track of all civil nuclear power plants in OECD countries and fosters international legislation. It establishes guidelines for the disposal of radioactive waste and the transparent communication with the populations who live near the sites where the latter is produced or disposed of.

The Nuclear Energy Agency is not responsible for nuclear non-proliferation issues, which fall under the authority of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (AIEA). The two Agencies work in close cooperation in many fields of action, as well as with the European Commission in Bruxelles and the OECD (its Environment Directorate or any other, as needed).

As of September 2014, the NEA is run by an American Director-General, William D. Magwood IV. With the support of all Member States, in 2015 he has concluded an important reorganization of the Agency’s structure with a view to making it more flexible and efficient and more focused on stringent issues like the “safety culture”. Especially with regards to the issues deriving from extending the life spans of power plants, the latter is indeed a topical concern from an operational perspective and as far as nuclear and regulatory activities are concerned. In this framework, a special focus is given to communication strategies, which may be key, especially in emergency situations.

In the 2017-2022 Strategic Plan which is currently being drafted, besides safety issues, high priority is given to decommissioning and environmental issues, as well as to the results of the COP21. This engagement is proof of the Agency’s commitment to work across the board, in the interest of all Member States and not only the nuclear-energy providers. In this regard, its close cooperation with India and China deserves a special mention as it can certainly improve policy harmonization in the field, especially with a view to global security.

Besides its Steering Committee which meets twice a year, the NEA has 7 standing Committees:
Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations - CSNI
Committee on Nuclear Regulatory Activities - CNRA
Radioactive Waste Management Committee - RWMC
Committee on Radiation Protection and Public Health - CRPPH
Nuclear Science Committee - NSC
Committee for Technical and Economic Studies on Nuclear Energy Development and the Fuel Cycle - NDC
Nuclear Law Committee - NLC.

Recently, a Management Board for the Development, Application and Validation of Nuclear Data and Codes (MBDAV) has been established. It echoes the role that belonged to the NEA Data Bank but possesses a higher visibility, thanks to its detached structure and independent President and Vice-President.