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The limits of growth

Author : Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold

08 June 2021

Every two months, Prof. Dr. Thorsten Arnhold, IECEx Chairman 2014-2019, provides an update on developments within the organisation. This month, Thorsten discusses nuclear power plants and the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components.

In 2020, the global population rose to around 7.8 billion. In 1980, the global population was 4.46 billion. This is an increase of 75% within a relatively short period of human history. The growth rate has not declined during the last few decades and there are no indications that this will change in the near future.

Assuming the right of all these people to live their lives under commonly acceptable circumstances, this development leads to a dramatic demand for energy. Energy to heat homes, power hospitals, power huge data clouds, for lighting during the night, to drive vehicles, and for many other applications. An interesting coincidence is, that almost at the same time, when our little narrative began, the Club of Rome published its report ‘The limits of growth’ (1972).

Among other interesting statements, the report made predictions of declining natural resources and climate change. Today, 49 years later, we know that some of these predictions have been proven correct, some not. Global population growth has become a fact like the decline of fossil fuels in locations where economical exploitation is possible. Regarding climate change, there is now strong political commitment across the world to reduce carbon dioxide output significantly.

This combination – the steadily growing energy demand on one side and the declining supply of conventional sources of primary energy – would form a certain dilemma if there would not be the human ability to innovate.

In my last article, I spoke about so-called “renewable” energies (wind, solar, marine etc.) combined with storage in form of hydrogen. I explained that the international standard organisations IEC and ISO together with the Conformity Assessment systems IECRE and IECEx are well prepared to ensure the quality and safety of these new technologies.

In this article, I want to focus on nuclear power plants. As of today, there are 440 nuclear reactors in operation across 32 countries in the world. Fifty reactors are under construction. One hundred more power reactors with a capacity of 110GW are planned. The next reactor generations like Dual Flow reactors and Molten Salt reactors will bring breakthroughs regarding safety and efficiency. For nuclear power stations, safety is of the utmost importance!

IECQ (, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, offers the IECQ Approved Process (AP) Scheme which provides independent assessment and issuing of an international IECQ certificate of conformity for organisations that have demonstrated compliance with declared standards and/or specifications. The global nature of supply chains makes it imperative for organisations to maintain specifications accepted by their customers when supplying component parts and services that are important to nuclear safety (ITNS). This can be achieved through assessment and certification. In the case of the nuclear industry, member countries of the IECQ System agreed to integrate ISO 19443:2018 into the IECQ Approved Process (AP) Scheme. This standard is about specific requirements for the application of quality management systems by organisations in the supply chain of the nuclear energy sector supplying products and services important to nuclear safety (ITNS). It is based on the ISO 9001:2015.

For the assessment of appropriate Certification Bodies (CB), the preparation and execution of audits and certification IECQ is following the ISO Technical specification ISO/TS 23406: “Nuclear sector – requirements for bodies providing audit and certification of quality management systems for organizations supplying products and services important to nuclear safety”. For the practical implementation of this new program under the roof of IECQ, a special Working Group 11 was founded. The working group developed the IECQ Operational Document (OD) 19443 that forms a bridge between the ISO documents and the IECQ – internal regulations.

In 2020, based on these documents, IECQ has approved its first Certification Body, the Certification Association Russian Register, which will be able to issue IECQ certificates for organisations complying with ISO 19443. Other Bodies are expected to extend their scopes to become able to offer this service.

“All stakeholders will benefit from a single global approach to the assessment and certification of organisations to the International Standard ISO 19443. Users of the Scheme will be able to provide this vital independent proof of compliance with ISO 19443 to supply products and services important to nuclear safety to this energy sector,” said Chris Agius, the Executive Secretary of IECQ.

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