William D. Magwood IV

  • William D. Magwood IV





    Mr. William D. Magwood IV is the Director-General of the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) since 1 September 2014.


    He has extensive experience in both the regulatory and developmental aspects of nuclear energy, including at the international level. From 2010 to 2014, he served as one of the five Commissioners appointed by the US President and confirmed by the US Senate to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). While a commissioner, he advocated the importance of nuclear regulatory independence and the necessity of maintaining strong, credible and technically sound nuclear regulation in the United States and all countries that use nuclear power.


    Prior to his appointment at the NRC, from 2005 to 2010 he provided independent strategic and policy advice to US and international clients on energy, environmental and technology policy issues. During this time, he also sat on various advisory groups and provided technical and policy advice to members of the US Congress on nuclear research, education and climate change policy.


    From 1998 to 2005, Mr. Magwood IV was Director of Nuclear Energy at the US Department of Energy (DOE). During his tenure, he launched several important initiatives including the US Nuclear Power 2010 programme and the Generation IV International Forum (GIF). He was also actively involved in the work of the NEA, serving as a Steering Committee bureau member from 1999 to 2003, and as Chair in 2004 and early 2005.


    Prior to his experience at the DOE, Mr. Magwood IV managed electric utility research and nuclear policy programmes at the Edison Electric Institute in Washington, DC, and was earlier a scientist at Westinghouse Electric Corporation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


    Mr. Magwood IV, a US national, holds Bachelor’s degrees in Physics and English from Carnegie Mellon University and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Pittsburgh.

  • Nuclear Safety


    La sûreté nucléaire par Willian D. Magwood IV, Directeur Général - NEA




    What does it mean to improve worldwide nuclear safety today?

    Improving nuclear safety is a continual process that builds on lessons learnt from operating experience and safety research. Those involved with ensuring nuclear safety—operators and regulators—should continually strive to learn new information to enhance the safe design and operation of nuclear facilities.

    An important component that helps improve nuclear safety worldwide is having openness and sharing of nuclear knowledge and experience. The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and other international organisations play a major role in this area. The NEA’s programmes in nuclear safety technology and regulation bring together senior government officials and technical experts from around the world to share best practices and scientific information. This helps achieve a common understanding of the underlying technical issues and the necessary actions to address them. Recent examples of such international cooperation for improved safety include our work in areas such as improving the robustness of electrical power systems, better understanding the hazards posed by extreme external events and strengthening human performance and safety culture.


    What are the main safety challenges for 2050?

    One challenge is long-term operation of existing nuclear power plants. Maintaining a high level of safety for plants operating for longer terms requires robust monitoring and maintenance plans to proactively identify and correct any ageing-related issues before they result in more significant challenges. This challenge applies not only to plant structures and equipment necessary for routine operations, but also to equipment intended for use in rare events.

    Another key challenge expected to arise by 2050 will involve development and diversification of future nuclear technologies including Generation IV systems. Safety issues and assessments for the next generation of nuclear reactors will need to address a much wider range of issues, such as those related to different fuel designs, reactor coolants and plant materials. The technical and scientific issues that will need to be addressed are more diverse and sometimes radically different than for current technologies. The Generation IV International Forum, serviced by the NEA, is a co-operative international endeavour that was set up to carry out the research and development needed to establish the feasibility and performance capabilities of the next generation nuclear energy systems.

    A third challenge worth mentioning is maintaining nuclear-safety expertise internationally in the context of nuclear phase-out in some countries with considerable nuclear experience and development of nuclear power in countries with relatively little experience. NEA has a clear role to play here in preserving safety knowledge and expertise and facilitating knowledge transfer to future generations. In addition, it will be essential to maintain and develop strong safety cultures for all professionals involved in the operation and regulation of nuclear power plants.

    Lastly, the maintenance and assurance of a health safety culture for nuclear operators and regulators is a challenge that cross-cuts all aspects of nuclear safety. The human aspects may be weakest link in nuclear safety as we look into the future.


    What is the role of the new technologies? Do you have one or two examples please? What are the main lines of research in progress?

    New technologies can serve many roles, such as improving safety as well as increasing efficiency. New technology can be as basic as improved materials that provide greater mechanical resistance or resistance to corrosion. A good example is the steady improvement of alloys and manufacturing techniques for steam-generator tubes in pressurized-water reactors. Improved steam generator tube materials can help reduce the steam generator tube failures to improve safety and can also improve heat transfer to increase operational efficiency.

    There are also fundamental changes in technology related to advanced reactor designs. Two good examples are the sodium-cooled fast-neutron reactor (SFR) and the gas-cooled high-temperature reactor (HTR). Such advanced designs offer safety benefits inherent in their designs. For example, if we consider a loss of reactor core cooling event, the SFR benefits from the large thermal inertia of the primary system (it would take longer before anything serious can happen), while the HTR benefits from passive natural cooling that avoids more serious consequences. Furthermore, the HTR and the SFR use uranium resources more efficiently with enhanced sustainability.

    Developing new technologies also requires new paradigms in our approaches for production and regulation. For example, small modular reactors (SMRs) offer different benefits than large nuclear power plants in terms of enhanced passive safety features and deployment. The mindset for SMRs should shift from the “building” of individual projects to the “manufacturing” of higher volumes, with a strong focus on quality assurance in the manufacturing.


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