AFCEN's international activities are strongly focused on the five key objectives below:
1) Provide the nuclear industry with a working platform in each area concerned, mainly Europe and China.
2) Pursue AFCEN's development in its target countries: Asia (China and India), the European Union (especially the United Kingdom and Poland) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia).
3) Build on the industrial practice of international users (the United Kingdom and China in particular) and the technical instructions relating to the licensing of projects using AFCEN codes as a benchmark (GDA of EPR UK, for example).
4) Be in touch with the needs of the international nuclear environment and potential expectations.
5) Continue the harmonization efforts with the other nuclear codes within MDEP and CORDEL.
Relationship with France's nuclear safety authority
With respect to AFCEN's relationship with France's nuclear safety authority, two points deserve a mention:
AFCEN's senior management meets the nuclear safety authority's executives approximately every two years.
For instance, on 2 July 2014, AFCEN's Board of Directors was received by ASN's Chairman, senior executives and representatives from the Nuclear Power Plant Department (DCN), the Nuclear Pressure Equipment Department (DESPN) and its supporting body IRSN.
AFCEN presented the following points:
- General presentation of AFCEN (background and creation, organization, ISO 9001 certification).
- AFCEN's international operations (China, United Kingdom, "Europeanization" of AFCEN codes, Poland and Saudi Arabia).
- Work of the Editorial and Training Committees.
- Brainstorming ways of improving recognition of the code, and ASN's and IRSN's involvement in editorial groups.
In conclusion, ASN stressed its interest in AFCEN's activities and its support for AFCEN's objectives. ASN and AFCEN wish to hold discussions about strategies for improving recognition of codes.
A progress report on the program aimed at demonstrating conformity of the RCC-M code in France with the French Nuclear Pressure Equipment Regulation (ESPN) has been presented to ASN roughly every three months since 2013 under the responsibility of AFCEN's Editorial Committee and attended by the relevant AFCEN members.
During meetings, program directions are discussed, and ASN gives its opinion on the documents submitted.
AFCEN's participation in the World Nuclear Exhibition (WNE) 2014
AFCEN took part as an exhibitor in the first World Nuclear Exhibition, which was held in Le Bourget, France from 14 to 16 October 2014.
AFCEN's stand attracted a number of visitors, operators, major industrial firms and manufacturers.
The exhibition gave AFCEN the opportunity to share the concerns faced by many manufacturers that are not yet AFCEN members.
AFCEN will take part in the second World Nuclear Exhibition in June 2016.
In a bid to consolidate and forge a tight-knit European nuclear industry faced with the global energy challenges in which the nuclear industry plays a strong role (construction and deconstruction of power plants), an exercise in "Europeanizing" a code was carried out in 2009 by a CEN * workshop (WS 64).
This workshop targeted the process of preparing the RCC-MRx code, which culminated in the publication of the 2012 edition of the RCC-MRx code, including the recommendations put forward by the WS's European partners.
Based on what was considered positive feedback by all partners, a continuation of the CEN* Workshop was launched in 2014 to investigate the potential needs for creating a code for mechanical and civil engineering for Gen II to Gen IV nuclear facilities (see Section 2.4.3).
This activity is being supported by the European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy.*: CEN: European Committee for Standardization
AFCEN's ties with China can be traced back to the construction (1986) of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant (two 900 MWe units based on the Gravelines 5/6 plant design).
Subsequently, AFCEN codes were gradually chosen for such projects as Qinshan Phase II (600 MWe), Ling AO Phase I (1,000 MWe), Ling AO Phase II (1,000 MWe), Qinshan Phase II Ext (600 MWe), 22 nuclear units of the CPR-1000 design (1,000 MWe), Changjiang (600 MWe) and finally Taishan EPR.
The Chinese safety authority (NNSA) has lent its full support to the adoption of AFCEN's codes by making their use a requirement in 2007 (Decision no. 28) for all CPR-1000 units.
Following this decision by NNSA, CGN decided, with approval from AFCEN, to translate the following AFCEN codes into Chinese (AFCEN – CNPRI agreement signed in 2008):
RCC-M : « Design and Construction Rules for Mechanical Components of PWR Nuclear Islands » – 2000 2005 add.
RCC-G : « Design and Construction Rules for Civil Works of PWR Nuclear Islands » – 1986
RCC-E : « Design and Construction Rules for Electrical Components of PWR Nuclear Islands » – 2005
RCC-I : « Design and Construction Rules for Fire Protection of PWR Nuclear Islands » – 1997 (rev. 4)
RCC-P : « Design and Construction Rules of PWR Nuclear Islands: System design and Safety classification » – 1991 (rev. 4) modif. 1995
RSE-M : « In-service Inspection Rules for Mechanical Components of PWR Nuclear Islands » – 1997 2005 add.
RCC-C : « Design and Construction Rules for Fuel Assemblies » – 2005
Translation of AFCEN codes into Chinese was completed in 2011.
2012 and 2013 were marked by technical seminars (Shenzhen in March 2012 and Beijing in September 2013) and the process of gradually ensuring the appropriate conditions for fostering partnerships with the leading players in China's nuclear industry.
In the meantime, Chinese users of AFCEN codes made their voice heard by submitting a large amount of clarification and Requests for Interpretation (over 600 clarification requests received between 2008 and 2012).
In light of such high levels of activity, the idea of setting up Users Groups was discussed and approved.
Partnerships forged in 2014
One of the major highlights in 2014 was AFCEN's signing of a series of MoUs (Memoranda of Understanding) with Chinese nuclear groups and organizations.
- The agreement that AFCEN signed on 18 February 2014 with the CGN Group, operator of the largest fleet of nuclear facilities in China, coinciding with the launch of AFCEN's Users Groups in China.
The MoU that AFCEN signed on 16 June 2014 with the CNNC Group, China's largest longstanding operator.
The MoU that AFCEN signed on 17 June 2014 with CNEA, the largest nuclear association in China.
These three partnership agreements / MoUs lay the foundations for the future development of AFCEN's activities in China.
Promotional initiatives spearheaded in 2014
Several promotional initiatives were spearheaded in 2014, including:
- Launch of the Chinese Users Groups (CUG) on 18 February 2014 and the meeting of the first CUG Steering Committee with strong attendance from Chinese industry. A major delegation from AFCEN headed by Cecile Laugier led the meeting. The delegation met players who are important for the use and promotion of nuclear codes and standards in China, including the CNNC Group, the national body responsible for nuclear standards (ISNI), technical support from the safety authority (NSC), the China Nuclear Energy Association (CNEA) and the CGN Group.
- The first AFCEN-CNEA Franco-Chinese seminar on feedback from the nuclear industry, held from 17 to 19 June 2014 in Beijing. This seminar boasted high levels of attendance (approximately 200 people) from French and Chinese experts, and served as the ideal occasion for sharing feedback from the nuclear industry in both countries on such topics as regulations, codes and standards, qualification and management of ageing assets, maintenance, I&C components and systems for nuclear power plants.
- The participation of a Chinese delegation from CGN in AFCEN's General Meeting in Paris. Featuring representatives from CGN's various subsidiaries (CNPEC/CNPDC, SNPI, CNPRI), the delegation spoke with AFCEN's executives about the prospect of promoting the different topics described in the MoU signed between AFCEN and the CGN Group (launch of the CSUGs, training, etc.).
Outlook for AFCEN in China in 2015
In 2015, AFCEN will pursue its goal of promoting its codes and cooperative activities with China.
The main foreseeable prospects are as follows:
- Launch of the CSUGs (China Specialized Users Groups): the first seven CSUGs will be launched early March by CGN and CNNC for the following codes: RCC-M (design and fabrication), RSE-M, RCC-MRx, RCC-E, RCC-C and RCC-F. CNNC will launch the RCC-CW CSUG later during the course of 2015.
- AFCEN's presence in CIENPI (China International Exhibition on Nuclear Power Industry): recognizing AFCEN as a strategic partner, CNEA offered an invitation to take part in CIENPI to present its expertise in preparing nuclear codes and standards.
- Second AFCEN-CNEA Franco-Chinese seminar on feedback from the nuclear industry: spurred on by the tremendous success of the first seminar on nuclear feedback in 2014, there are plans to repeat the event in June 2015.
- Development of a partnership with ISNI / NEA on Chinese nuclear standards. Note: NEA (National Energy Administration) could be interested in the prospect of a long-term cooperative arrangement with AFCEN on nuclear standards.
- Strong Chinese attendance is expected at AFCEN's 2015 International Congress: various governmental organizations (NEA, NSC) and Chinese industry (CGN, CNNC, ISNI, CNEA) have expressed their interest in taking part in AFCEN's international congress on nuclear codes and standards, which will be held late March 2015 in Paris.
- Development of a partnership with NSC: as part of its role in delivering technical support to the Chinese safety authority (NNSA), NSC is an intensive user of AFCEN codes in China for its technical safety assessments of Chinese nuclear power plants. NSC is looking to strengthen its relationship with AFCEN in an effort to share its expertise directly with AFCEN. There are plans for a partnership between AFCEN and NSC.
Background and general objectives
Following certification of the EPR reactor in the United Kingdom (GDA, Generic Design Assessment), licensee NNB (Nuclear New Build) has been overseeing relations with the safety authority (ONR, Office for Nuclear Regulation) and investigating all open points relating to AFCEN code implementation.
The investigation is targeting the codes covering mechanical components (RCC-M, RSE-M Appendix 5.4), electrical systems (RCC-E), civil engineering works (ETC-C) and fire protection systems (ETC-F).
It leverages the NNB–RD relationship (Responsible Designer = EDF/DIN), and specific issues are forwarded to AFCEN by the EPR-UK project for analysis and action via representatives of members EDF and AREVA in the subcommittees of which NNB is actually a member.
Furthermore, dissemination of AFCEN's code culture within British industry is important, not to say essential for simplifying understanding and use of the codes and benefiting projects.
This observation prompted the creation of AFCEN code Users Groups (UK Users Groups), comprising the companies concerned and representatives from NNB and AFCEN, with a Steering Committee responsible for overseeing all groups.
These Users Groups are tasked with disseminating AFCEN's code culture in an effort to:
- Simplify uptake among British industry and partners (designers, manufacturers, contractors, suppliers and consultants).
- Ascertain users' requests and suggestions (as far as drafting guides or appendices specific to the local context if necessary).
- Establishing an effective communication channel with AFCEN's Subcommittees (occasional contributions from experts in the groups, management of Requests for Modification and Interpretation).
- Organizing training requirements.
Such a need for Users Groups was mainly identified for the RCC-M, ETC-C and RCC-E codes.
The aim is to simplify the roll-out of EPR UK projects by minimizing discrepancies caused by poor interpretation of the codes early into the project lifecycle and strengthening the solidity of AFCEN's codes, particularly their ability to be deployed on an international level.
Activities in 2014
In terms of the RCC-M code, the Users Group was created in 2013 (two sessions). The agreement between AFCEN and TWI (The Welding Institute) was signed on 27 March 2014 during the AFCEN Days event.
The TWI leader of the RCC-M UK Users Groups set up the group's terms of reference and held three sessions in 2014. The group comprises approximately 15 members and includes participation from NNB (representation of a Design Authority (DA) member and a Manufacturing Inspection Team (MIT) member to cover design and fabrication aspects).
During each session, AFCEN's experts and the group's corporate members share their views on a technical issue mainly concerning fabrication (quality, procurement of materials and products, welding and NDT).
Feedback on the group's operation has been satisfactory, with good leadership by TWI amidst the pending final investment decision (FID) and the uncertainties inherent in such pre-contractual stages.
Users Groups have not yet been formed for the ETC-C and RCC-E codes, although talks are well underway for ETC-C.
The Steering Committee has been defined and includes the leaders of the different Users Groups, the NNB Chairman of the Steering Committee and the international relations coordinator with the United Kingdom.
The Memorandum of Understanding between AFCEN and the Steering Committee Chair is due to be signed at the next AFCEN Congress in 2015.
Background and general objectives
The actions spearheaded by AFCEN in Poland are naturally aimed at promoting Europe's nuclear industry and driving Europe's industrial proposal for the Polish electronuclear RFP (2 x 3,000 MWe by 2035).
Use of AFCEN codes for designing and building Poland's first nuclear power plant is referenced alongside other top-tier international standards in the Polish Nuclear Power Programme (PNPP) adopted by the Polish Council of Ministers on 28 January 2014. This concerns the codes for mechanical components (RCC-M), electrical systems (RCC-E), civil engineering works (ETC-C) and fire protection systems (ETC-F).
The PNPP is drawing on "Poland's Energy Policy until 2030" adopted by the Polish Council of Ministers on 10 November 2009.
Despite suffering several delays, the invitation to tender for Poland's first nuclear power plant could be launched early 2016, with the contract signed late 2017.
With a helping hand from the French Embassy in Warsaw, AFCEN is stepping up its efforts to inform and raise awareness among the Polish partners involved in developing the nuclear program. Prior to the future RFP, AFCEN's actions in Poland are aimed at achieving two objectives:
- Take a proactive approach towards nuclear safety and quality: the goal is to promote the importance of a European technical standard that is recognized, tested and shared by the entire industry, which represents a key component of safety and economic efficiency, insofar as it simplifies and structures dialogue and discussions between industry, suppliers, partners and the safety authority, as well as safety authorities in the international arena.
- Work alongside Poland in developing its Human Capacity Building project; that is the reason for which AFCEN is planning to expand its action plan in Poland with training and knowledge transfer solutions geared towards the needs of the stakeholders in the Polish Nuclear Power Program.
Broadening AFCEN's working groups to encompass Polish partners is another prospect for the longer term if the EPR technology is chosen. The need for Polish Users Groups was mainly identified for the RCC-M, ETC-C, RCC-E and ETC-F codes.
For instance, AFCEN's collaboration with Poland is part of a long-term outlook that goes much further than the invitation to tender.
Over the last two years, AFCEN has forged a solid network of contacts in Poland within the institutions concerned by the nuclear power project (ministries, academia, research institutes, etc.) and all of industry in general.
Activities in 2014
AFCEN staged a series of seminars in Poland to put its initiatives and publications firmly on the radar.
Four seminars have been organized since 2012.
- First seminar on 13 December 2012.
- Second seminar on 16 April 2013.
- Third seminar on 12 December 2013.
- Fourth seminar in June 2014
Fourth seminar in June 2014
The fourth seminar, entitled "RCC-M: NDT, Welding and Materials", was held on 4 and 5 June 2014 in Krakow and gave participants a general presentation of the RCC-M code.
The seminar was organized jointly with the Institut Spawalnictwa de Gliwice (IS) and attracted 60 participants: universities including NCBJ, AGH and UDT (Office of Technical Inspection), the Ministry of Economy and companies from the nuclear sector. Also deserving a mention is the participation of a representative from the Polish safety authority PAA, as well as a representative from electric utility PGE EJ1, which is responsible for preparing the construction and operation of Poland's first nuclear power plant.
Presentations zeroed in on the overview of the RCC-M code, how the provisions in the code dovetail with European standards, use of the code for Class II and III mechanical systems and components, with the focus on the materials and NDT, QA rules and third-party actions, followed by a presentation on the impact of construction choices (design and fabrication) on in-service operations (repairs, in-service inspection and maintenance).
Participants gave the seminar an enthusiastic reception and appreciated the fact that AFCEN's experts travelled to Krakow, while calling on the association to organize practical workshops to provide a clearer insight into implementation of the RCC-M code.
Following the seminar, the Institut Spawalnictwa de Gliwice (IS) told AFCEN of its desire to forge cooperative ties between both organizations for the purpose of establishing a first step in Franco-Polish collaboration on the RCC-M code and acting as a driving force for simplifying upskilling for the companies operating in the sector. Several topics were raised, including training and the translation into Polish of certain chapters on industrial welding in RCC-M.
AFCEN code ceremony in September 2014
The ceremony was held under the auspices of the French Embassy and AFCEN, and heralded a new milestone in the cooperative ties between French and Polish nuclear stakeholders in the wake of the series of four topical seminars. The ceremony was attended by stakeholders in the Polish nuclear power program, such as the Nuclear Energy Department of the Ministry of Economy, the Polish safety authority PAA, WUT University, NCBJ, ICHTJ, IS and PGE EJ1
The ceremony also provided the ideal platform for reminding our Polish partners of AFCEN's commitment to developing design and construction standards for electricity-producing nuclear reactors.
As part of this mission, AFCEN contributes towards nuclear safety by producing rules reflecting established industrial practices.
AFCEN draws strength from the contributions of its members, industry, manufacturers and operators to publish robust standards that drive the standardization process and leverage the best international and European standards.
In doing so, AFCEN plays an active role in raising the economic efficiency bar in the nuclear industry.
Another highlight was the Polish delegation led by Poland's Ministry of Economy which, acting on an initiative by AFCEN, visited AFCEN's experts at their stand during the World Nuclear Exhibition, which was held from 14 to 16 October in Le Bourget, Paris.
Outlook for 2015:
Other initiatives and seminars will be staged throughout 2015 to build on the work aimed at forging strong cooperative ties with Poland which, while showcasing French experience, helps promote best practices in terms of nuclear safety and the technical and industrial knowledge required for the responsible development of a nuclear power industry.
Two new seminars have already been scheduled for 2015:
- A seminar concentrating on the application of European standards by the RCC-M code, from 15 to 17 April 2015.
- A seminar organised by Poland's Ministry of Economy in Warsaw on 24 and 25 September 2015, offering a technical comparison between AFCEN / ASME codes and the standards and regulations (especially quality) on which they rely.
Franco-German cooperation on nuclear issues was subject to strong activity in the 1990s as part of the development of the EPR and, to a lesser extent, the EFR. Such cooperation led to joint work on codes.
Following successive decisions by German governments to abandon nuclear energy, cooperation drew to a standstill in the early 2000s.
However, AFCEN was keen to restore ties with its German counterpart KTA. The motivation for fostering a close working relationship can be explained by the fact that both countries have compiled significant feedback on the design and operation of electricity-producing reactors and the importance of capitalizing on the technologies involved.
Initial contact between representatives from both organizations was established during the summer of 2014, and the principle for cooperation was approved in the autumn by their governing bodies.
Specific actions are expected to be proposed in 2015.
Harmonization and cooperation initiatives
Empowered by its long tradition as a major force in the nuclear codes sector in several countries, and as part of its determination to continually incorporate industry best practice and local regulations for its code users, AFCEN is naturally involved in the harmonization programs either set up by international organizations or created at its own initiative.
For example, AFCEN contributes to the objectives of harmonizing mechanical codes as set forth in the multinational design evaluation program (MDEP) implemented by the safety authorities in the main countries using nuclear energy.
Similarly, AFCEN is represented in the "Codes & Standards" task force of the working group (formed by the World Nuclear Association WNA, which includes industry's main players) on cooperation in reactor design evaluation and licensing (CORDEL).
Furthermore, at the European level, AFCEN has taken the initiative to create a workshop within the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) to bring the various European stakeholders together and thereby anticipate needs for codes.
In the same spirit, AFCEN's members are active in various standardization bodies on a European (CEN / CENELEC) and international level (ISO / IEC).
SDO Convergence Board
AFCEN has taken part in the group of Standards Development Organizations (SDO) ever since it was created by the MDEP Mechanical Codes and Standards Working Group (CSWG) in 2006. In 2011, the SDO group published a report entitled "Code Comparison Report for Class 1 Nuclear Power Plant Components".
Box below provides a preview of the conclusions of the SDO group concerning the comparison of RCC-M with ASME code BPVC Section III.
In this respect, CSWG highlighted the major difficulties in completely converging codes on an international level, but indicated that it would support any industrial initiative looking to harmonize codes and standards between the SDOs. In particular, CSWG recommended that a process be implemented to minimize any divergences between future editions of the codes.
With this aim in mind, the SDOs created the "Convergence Board [for nuclear mechanical codes]" to identify and facilitate the introduction of compatible rules in each of the mechanical codes (ASME, AFCEN, JSME, KEPIC, CSA and PNAE). AFCEN is a member of the Convergence Board. One of the first topics on the Convergence Board's agenda was welding practices, for which a comparative study is in progress.
MDEP plenary session of 15 May 2014
An MDEP plenary session was held in Washington on 15 May 2014. As part of its involvement in this particular issue, ASN called on AFCEN to take part in a round-table discussion on the prospect of converging codes.
During the round table, AFCEN supported the work that is currently targeting convergence towards ISO practices (qualification of welding operators and inspectors) and convergence in terms of the design approach.
WNA created the Cordel working group (Cooperation in Design Evaluation and Licensing) in 2007 to stimulate dialogue between the international nuclear industry and safety authorities.
As part of its conviction that harmonizing nuclear standards on an international level can have a beneficial effect on both safety and competitiveness, the Cordel working group continually promotes harmonization.
The Codes & Standards Task Force (CSTF) was created in 2010 with the aim of supporting initiatives for harmonizing codes and standards as they apply to both operators and manufacturers, while taking into consideration exchanges between safety authorities and the use of those codes and standards by stakeholders that did not take part in their development.
An opportunity assessment was therefore carried out on two pilot subjects (certification of non-destructive testing personnel and non-linear analyses), following which harmonization proposals were made.
AFCEN is active within the Cordel CSTF task force through its members and supports CSTF's actions. For instance, the conclusions of the report on the certification of non-destructive testing personnel were incorporated into the latest version of RCC-M.
CEN- WORKSHOP V64
AFCEN's determination to rally Europe's nuclear industry to a set of codes geared towards the needs of future nuclear projects in Europe has found a conducive framework for the development of its action with the 2007 creation of the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNETP).
The European Commission has been associated with AFCEN's initiative since day one and has lent its support ever since.
A proposal was initially made within CEN to set up a workshop to encourage the different organizations and stakeholders in the ESNII (European Sustainable Nuclear Industrial Initiative affiliated with SNETP and covering Generation IV fast neutron reactors) to help with enhancing the RCC-MRx code draft.
This proposal was accepted by CEN and joined by 14 European organizations.
Workshop 64, named "Design and Construction Code for mechanical equipment of innovative nuclear installations", was created on 3 February 2011. Its terms of reference were compared to those in force within AFCEN's Subcommittees.
Workshop 64 ran until October 2012 and produced 20 code change records, all of which were incorporated into the published edition. Furthermore, 13 proposals could not be converted into change records due to a lack of technical justification.
Feedback on the first initiative was considered to be highly satisfactory and rewarding by all stakeholders.
Spurred on by these results, AFCEN took the initiative of continuing to promote nuclear codes across Europe by fine-tuning objectives according to two focus areas:
- Invite short-term project leaders to come and work directly in the Subcommittee in order to enhance the code with the driving force adapted to their requirements.
- Prepare the future codes within external prospective groups, where parties potentially using codes for medium and long-term projects can express their technical requirements, discuss which supporting evidence is required, any R&D actions needed and the installations where such actions can be carried out.
As part of the first focus area, AFCEN gained three new European members.
The second focus area prompted AFCEN to propose a second phase for Workshop 64 with a broader scope than for Phase 1; in other words, in addition to mechanical engineering for Gen IV nuclear facilities, Phase 2 includes mechanical components for current reactors (based on the RCC-M code) and civil engineering works (based on the RCC-CW code).
This proposal was again accepted by CEN and has currently been joined by 15 organizations.
Workshop 64 - Phase 2, entitled "Design and Construction Code for Gen II to IV nuclear facilities (pilot case for process for evolution of AFCEN codes)" was created on 6 June 2014 for a three-year term, which may be renewed if necessary according to the participants' needs and interests.
The workshop actually comprises three "prospective groups", each of which covering one of the aforementioned fields (Gen II-III mechanical engineering, Gen IV mechanical engineering and civil engineering) and led by renowned experts from organizations that are not AFCEN members.
In each group, AFCEN has delegated a representative from the relevant Subcommittee to guide the group's work and provide information on the codes and the methods for updating the codes.