The analysis of the plant operating practice in European countries shows a growing interest in plant life management programs (PLIM), integrating nuclear safety, economic and knowledge management issues in operating procedures and tools able to support optimised decision making. Such a trend is considered essential in market economies where optimised asset management is becoming imperative, keeping safety at the highest possible level. It is recognised that only an integrated approach to the management of some key safety and non-safety programs could guarantee full control on the plant assets, providing also invaluable frameworks for refined plant overall safety assessment, even in the long term, beyond the plant design life. The PLIM programs specifically address and control ageing phenomena, support optimisation of maintenance strategies, plan major plant reconstruction works, drive plant staff knowledge management and optimise economic resources. R&D is essential to support this development process of PLIM models, especially in the analysis of both the technical issues related to all types of component ageing, and in the challenging integration of safety and non-safety programs, such as in the case of maintenance optimisation, spare part management, staff ageing, and component obsolescence. The European Commission took important initiatives in contributing and supporting this R&D effort in selected PLIM areas, in the framework of the EURATOM programme, both by “direct actions” i.e. projects managed and executed by its Directorate General Joint Research Centres (JRC) and by indirect actions i.e. funding selected projects, managed by the Directorate General Research (RTD). This paper outlines the JRC’s priorities in the current 7th Framework Programme in relation to R&D tasks for PLIM methods to support the highest safety level at member NPPs and appropriate decision-making tools, also in view of long-term safe operation of the European plants. Some results made available by the on-going research programs are also shortly described, in the areas of PLIM models and operational indicators respectively.

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