nREPL has been designed with the aim of ensuring that it satisfies the requirements of both application developers (in support of activities ranging from interactive remote debugging and experimentation in development contexts through to more advanced use cases such as updating deployed applications) as well as toolmakers (providing a standard way to connect to and introspect running environments as a way of informing user interfaces of all kinds, including "standard" interactive, text-based REPLs).
The default network protocol used is simple, depending neither on JVM or Clojure specifics, thereby allowing (encouraging?) the development of non-Clojure REPL clients. The REPLs operational semantics are such that essentially any non-JVM Clojure implementation should be able to implement it, with allowances for hosts that lack the concurrency primitives to support e.g. asynchronous evaluation, interrupts, etc.
For more information about the motivation, architecture, use cases, and discussion related to nREPL, see the original design notes, available here, and the notes and discussion around its recent redesign.