Nuclear Power and Nuclear Safety

World's nuclear experts meet at Halden Reactor Project (HRP)

Norway's biggest international research project gathered 250 delegates for the EHPG conference held in Lillehammer between 24 and 29 September. EHPG stands for Enlarged Halden Program Group, and this conference is organised every two years as part of the management of the Halden Reactor Project. Nuclear safety experts from all over the world gather at these conferences in order to share their experiences and develop new security safety solutions for nuclear power plants.

Kvalem, Jon

Halden Project Manager


EHPG forsamlingen 2017250 people from 15 different countries were present at the conference.Photo: Cindy Victoria Eriksen, IFE

This was the 40th EHPG conference since it was held for the first time in 1966. A total of around 10,000 researchers and specialists working in the field of nuclear safety have attended these conferences. The Halden Reactor Project was established back in 1958 as an OECD project and is probably now the longest-running international research project in the world. The Halden Reactor Project is agreed for three years at a time. It is thought that it is better to share knowledge of nuclear safety than to carry out individual research into the same challenges. Results from the last three-year programme are presented during EHPG conferences, and collective efforts are made to compile the research programme for the coming three-year period. This system has worked well for almost 60 years!

New member country added

New member countries are still joining the Halden Reactor Project. China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have joined in the last couple of years. Both countries are investing heavily in nuclear power and view nuclear power as a safe, eco-friendly source of energy.

Gu Danying, senior engineer from the Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research & Design Institute (SNERDI), is very pleased to be part of the Halton Reactor Project.

EHPG 2017 Kina SNERDI from China were well represented at the conference. Senior Engineer, Gu Danying is nr.3 from the left. The Project manager of the Haldenproject, Margaret McGrath and Deputy Project Manager, Jon Kvalem is nr. 1 and 5 on the picture(from the left).                        Photo: Viktor A. Wikstrøm jr.,IFE

"This is my second EHPG conference, and we have benefited a lot from both.

SNERDI is a new member of the Halton Reactor Project, and we are working on finding out how the project culture works. I have to say, the sense of solidarity we experience here is unique. A number of outstanding researchers from all over the world are gathered together here. They all talk together, regardless of national borders and the types of organisation or company to which they belong. Yesterday, I was working as part of a group comprising specialists from countries such as the USA, Norway and France, and with representatives from industry and various government agencies. IFE's administration evidently has extensive experience of organising matters so that the presentations and the exchanges of experience can take place effectively and constructively. It has been a very instructive and inspiring conference."

The concept behind the Halden Reactor Project is to create an international forum in which the world can share information about nuclear safety. Nuclear safety is something that concerns us all.

"Yes, that is what I think too; and it is great for us to be part of this environment. It is important for the world to work together on nuclear safety.

We have gained an even better understanding of the Halden Reactor Project during our time here in Lillehammer. We can see more clearly how to develop our partnership still further. We have ideas for new projects now. I think the researchers and leaders involved in the Halden Reactor Project create a sense of trust. That is crucial to all kinds of cooperation. I work with challenges in the field of Human Factors (HF issues), and I feel that the Halden Reactor Project sets a high bar for international safety standards. This partnership is helping us to learn and grow.  I hope that IFE researchers can come to Shanghai and help us to develop further in the field of HF. We are now looking to send a researcher (secondee) to Halden. Before Christmas, if we can."

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is another country investing heavily in nuclear power. Inspector Meera Al Mheiri, from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulations (FANR), was one of the lecturers. She described the progress of the nuclear power programme in the UAE. The programme is going according to plan, and the first nuclear power plant will start production at some time in 2018.

EHPG UAE, Meena Inspector Meera Al Mheiri from FANR is an enthusiastic supporter of international cooperation on nuclear safety. Photo: Joachim Bratteli, IFE)

"We have received the application to start the reactor. We now have to discuss it and ensure that all safety aspects have been taken into consideration. When this is done, the operator will be able to start nuclear production using the reactor. The major support for the nuclear power programme in the community is one reason as to why the programme has gone so well. We have also managed to encourage many of the world's best nuclear power experts to join us in the UAE, and this is another important factor.

I have attended five different conferences under the auspices of the Halden Reactor Project (HRP) since the EHPG conference held in Oslo in May 2016. I have never heard of HF research before I joined the HRP, and I have to say it has been an eye-opener. It has given me a new perspective on safety that is extremely important. This is also a skill that can be applied in many fields, and I want to help link the HF expertise from the Halden Reactor Project with a number of environments in the UAE, not least the universities.

I think that development in the field of HF is dependent on continuous communication among researchers, operators and government agencies. HF researchers need input from the people who sit in the control rooms, and from others who work with nuclear safety, to find out how they perceive their own situations to be. This will enrich HF research. The Halden Reactor Project is a great example of international cooperation, which is one of our core values. Nobody can do everything on their own. Nobody should need to reinvent the wheel, particularly not as far as nuclear power safety is concerned. I want to do everything in my power to reinforce the partnership between the FANR and the HRP. Many countries are now looking to us in the UAE to see how we have achieved this. Others may perhaps be able to learn from us eventually."

At a time when 60 new nuclear power plants are being constructed, and when 28 countries that have not had nuclear power plants previously are considering investing in this form of energy, it is good that there is a great deal of international support for the Halden Reactor Project. IFE wishes to focus further on the HRP and has applied to the Norwegian authorities for funding for a new project period (2018-2020).  However, the financial business model for the Halden Reactor Project is not sustainable for IFE. Thus the future for the Halden Reactor Project is dependent on whether it is possible to find a financial model that all project participants can live with.