Monitoring radiation levels is paramount to ensuring protection against nuclear risks. IEC Technical Committee (TC) 45 is the only worldwide body developing international instrumentation and control standards for the nuclear and nuclear power industries and for other industries using nuclear measuring techniques. Its work is also absolutely essential to detect illegal activities and smuggling of radioactive material.
Growing global concern
Nowadays protection from nuclear risks is a global concern. Accidents in nuclear power plants resulting from natural disasters, technical faults or human errors have heightened public concern about the nuclear industry.
Authorities everywhere try to protect people and environment from careless handling and storage of radioactive waste material. Governments also see possible criminal or terrorist misuse of smuggled nuclear waste or spent fuel as representing very serious national security risks.
The IEC makes a major contribution to the safety of nuclear installations, to the safe handling and storage of fissile material and to the fight against nuclear smuggling through the work of its TC 45 and its Subcommittees (SCs), which prepare International Standards relating to electrical and electronic equipment and systems for instrumentation specific to nuclear applications.
Minimizing risks in power plants
The nuclear power industry has been facing important challenges in recent years following the March 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima, Japan, and the wider availability of additional fuel sources, mainly natural gas, resulting from new drilling techniques.
These factors have led a number of countries to turn away or to cut their level of dependence on nuclear power in favour of renewable sources or cheaper fossil fuels to generate electricity.
The building of new nuclear installations, the refurbishment of older installations and the dismantling of decommissioned reactors are submitted to tighter reviews and regulations where safety plays a major role and where standards for instrumentation are essential.
TC 45, which had published 35 International Standards as of March 2015, and its SCs develop International Standards for the design, construction, performance, testing and calibration of radiation detection instrumentation for all applications.
IEC SC 45A prepares standards applicable to the electronic and electrical functions and associated systems and equipment used in nuclear energy generation facilities (nuclear power plants, fuel handling and processing plants, interim and final repositories for spent fuel and nuclear waste). The aim is to improve the efficiency and safety of nuclear energy generation.
The core domain of SC 45A is instrumentation and control systems important to safety in nuclear energy generation facilities. As of March 2015 SC 45A had issued some 74 publications.
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Nuclear power plants are amongst the most rigorously monitored installations and IEC International Standards play a central role for this.