International A resurgence in nuclear power in the next century will require improvements in safety records, increased economic competitiveness and enhanced public understanding and confidence. This was the key message to the civil nuclear industry made by International Atomic Energy Agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei in his speech to the Agency’s annual conference.
“The assumption that environmental considerations alone will trigger a resurgence in investment in nuclear power generation is at best doubtful,” he said. “Only if the nuclear power industry consistently reflects three crucial attributes – safety, competitiveness and public support – can it be assured a long-term future.” ElBaradei also emphasised the importance of international efforts to encourage technological developments, including new reactor designs and the use of small and medium sized reactors for applications other than electricity production, such as desalinisation.
A particular concern is the existence of ‘orphan sources’, radioactive materials not under the control of any national regulatory authority. The IAEA is developing a plan to address the problem, but it will require international co-operation.
At the conference the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Indonesia, Monaco, Norway and Slovakia signed protocols designed to strengthen the IAEA’s system to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. The protocols strengthen the Agency’s powers to inspect nuclear facilities and detect any possible clandestine weapons production.