SALTO: peer review to assess the long-term operational safety of nuclear power plant
In depth - April 30, 2024

SALTO: peer review to assess the long-term operational safety of nuclear power plant

The acronym SALTO stands for "Safety Aspects of Long-Term Operation." This term describes the focus and purpose of the peer review conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) at a nuclear power plant.

What is long term operation?

Long-term operation - continuous operation of a nuclear power plant, maintaining its safety level beyond the period considered in its design - is an established practice in 18 out of the 32 countries that include nuclear energy in their electrical systems. By the end of 2023 there were 193 nuclear reactors authorized to operate beyond 40 years. Of these, 85 were located in the United States and 108 in the rest of the world. This means that there must be a careful assessment of the safety of this long-term operation.

SALTO: peer review to assess the long-term operational safety of nuclear power plant

Long-term operation is an established practice in over half of the countries with nuclear power

SALTO missions to evaluate safety

A SALTO mission is a comprehensive process aimed at assessing the long-term operational safety of nuclear power plants that addresses the crucial aspects necessary to ensure the continuous safety of these sites. It is carried out in accordance with the IAEA's safety standards and guidelines.

As previously mentioned, an increasing number of countries are currently prioritizing the long-term operation of their nuclear power plants, for reasons of competitiveness, environmental concerns and guarantee of supply. In this context, decision making must involve considering a series of factors. Of these, safety is the most fundamental factor for all decisions.

The purpose of the SALTO mission is to evaluate the safety of long-term operation of nuclear power plants

IAEA Member States can request the implementation of SALTO peer review services.

Stages of the SALTO test

The SALTO test process has several stages, which include:

  • A workshop or seminar on the IAEA Safety Standards and the SALTO test method.
  • A pre-SALTO mission (if needed, the site may host more than one of these missions.)
  • The actual SALTO mission
  • A follow-up mission

The test also includes a pre-SALTO preparation mission and a follow-up mission

During these missions, key aspects such as the organization and functions of the plant, aging management programs and personnel training are examined. The missions are led by international experts with the participation of IAEA officials and observers from counterpart organizations.

SALTO: peer review to assess the long-term operational safety of nuclear power plant
IAEA experts conducting a SALTO mission at unit 1 of the Wolsong nuclear power plant in South Korea (Photo: R. Krivanek/OIEA)

This type of analysis includes several benefits; some of the most important ones are a regulatory compliance assessment, issuing recommendations for improvement, opportunities for an exchange of knowledge with experts and strengthening public trust in nuclear power plants.

Elaboración de informes

After completing the SALTO examination, a preliminary report is prepared and delivered to the plant undergoing the examination for review. The final and revised report is distributed to the requesting Member State, although it can be kept confidential upon request.

Executive summaries of all SALTO missions are available on the IAEA's mission calendar,.This gives access to key information on the results of these nuclear safety assessment processes.

The executive summaries of all the SALTO missions are available with access to key information on the result of the evaluations.

A recent example of the SALTO peer review examination in Spain is the Ascó nuclear power plant, which underwent this review in September 2023 by request from the Ascó-Vandellós II Nuclear Association (ANAV). In this review, the IAEA verified the adequate preparation of the Ascó and Vandellós II plants for long-term operation.

Recently, the Ascó Nuclear Power Plant underwent this review where the IAEA verified the correct preparation of Ascó and Vandellós II for long-term operation

SALTO: peer review to assess the long-term operational safety of nuclear power plant
Part of the teams at the plant and the SALTO mission at the Ascó nuclear power plant in September 2023 (Photo: ANAV)

Sources: IAEA, Foro Nuclear

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