The nuclear industry
The nuclear industry is a global enterprise, and comprises many diverse participants from individuals to companies, industry associations to United Nations and other inter-governmental bodies, and also appointed bodies responsible to national governments.
Nuclear reactor builders and operators
Central to the generation of nuclear power are the companies and government corporations or utilities set up to actually generate the electricity. These are usually also responsible for building the nuclear power plants, and draw upon reactor technology and other vendor companies as well as a wide range of contractors.
An apprentice trains beginning his career at a power company (EDF Energy)
Uranium mining, nuclear fuel, storage and waste
Servicing the electricity generation are companies providing nuclear fuel for the reactors. These range from mining companies through to the companies preparing the fuel for use in reactors – conversion, enrichment and fabrication of the fuel rods are the three main categories.
After the fuel is used in a reactor it is initially stored at the power plant site, but another range of service companies then play roles in management, possibly reprocessing, and disposal of final wastes. Most of these companies have a technology or engineering base, but there are also trading companies involved with fuel supply connecting these.
Any major industry in any country is subject to regulation by governments, and for nuclear power the independent national regulators appointed by them play an important role as trusted experts in approving the technology used, where it is sited, and how it is operated.
Research and development
Behind all the above front-line roles are organisations responsible for research and development, for setting engineering standards, and for design of equipment.
Nuclear plants need a lot of investment to build, and the financial services sector has a vital role in providing finance for capital works. Related to this are insurance of plants and third party liability insurance, without which plants cannot operate.
The industry as a whole receives income through the sales of electricity generated in its nuclear power plants.
National and international organisations
Beyond the role of national governments is that of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which is responsible for implementing international agreements specific to nuclear power, notably the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty which enables international collaboration on the peaceful uses of atomic energy while providing mutual assurance that civil programs remain so.
At a less formal level there is a lot of international collaboration through the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) which plays a major role in improving the safety and reliability of reactor operation and keeping it at a high standard. In some countries there are corresponding national organisations linking different operators.
The World Nuclear Association is the international trade association linking companies and organisations worldwide to address matters of common concern collaboratively. In each country and for Europe collectively there are corresponding industry associations which have a mutual support and lobbying function to interface with governments.
All this adds up to a major and diverse collections of corporate and government players who together make the industry function efficiently.
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