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They reflect lessons learned on current plants and provide the set of assumptions to be used to assess compliance with acceptance criteria. However, user requirements can also be a cause for over-design and high capital costs. Cost benefit analysis of different design solutions has not always been carried out to determine if the requirement is in fact cost effective, or to determine whether the requirement could be met more cost effectively. For example, user requirements documents for future plants specify plant availability factors of 87% and above, and identify design features for achieving these requirements.

The IAEA Conference on ‘The Safety of Nuclear Power: Strategies for the Future’ [19] included discussions on the safety of future plants, and noted that ‘the use of passive safety features is a desirable method of achieving simplification and increasing the reliability of the performance of essential safety functions, and should be used wherever appropriate. However, a careful review of potential failure modes of passive components and systems should also be performed to identify possible new failure mechanisms’.

Effective maintenance is one factor of excellent economic management of a nuclear generating plant. In new plants efficient maintenance should be a result of good design. From operating experience to date, sufficient information on material selection and expected operating environments is now available to predict material behaviour and reduce unexpected maintenance to very low levels. This should also be possible with the use of non-nuclear standard materials in many applications, as discussed in the previous section.

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Improving Economics, Safety of Water-Cooled Reactors (IAEA TECDOC-1290)

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