The Roadmaps to New Nuclear conference, organised by the French Ministry for Energy Transition and the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) in Paris, resulted in two communiques signed by energy ministers and industry representatives emphasising the need for nuclear energy.

The meeting was attended by energy ministers and delegations from Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Ghana, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Poland, Romania, Netherlands, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, the UK and the USA. Italy was present as an observer. Industry participants included the Canadian Nuclear Association, the Candu Owners Group, Gifen, Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Korea Atomic Industrial Forum, Nuclear Energy Institute, nucleareurope, Nuclear Industry Association and World Nuclear Association.

“This is the first time in 13 years that so many ministers have come together for a Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) event,” said French Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher, who co-chaired the conference alongside NEA Director General William D Magwood.

The agenda included topics such as financing, supply chain and fuel issues, and coordination between governments and industry.

The industry organisations issued a communiqué noting: "We recognise that we are at a critical juncture in terms of climate and energy security, and nuclear energy must play an essential role – alongside other clean energy technologies – if we are to meet this moment. The urgency and magnitude of the challenge before us is real and the speed and scale of the response must match this task."

The undertook to work with governments to:

  • Extend the operating period of existing nuclear generation resources for as long as is feasible including the restart of operable reactors and encouraging efficient safety reviews;
  • Drive rapid and significant reductions in construction costs and timelines by leveraging lessons learned from recent nuclear new-build projects;
  • Accelerate deployment of small modular reactors and advanced reactors, alongside large nuclear reactors, to unlock large-scale deployment in the 2030s and support decarbonisation of hard-to-abate sectors;
  • Deepen international cooperation for the development of the nuclear supply chain and its workforce exploring options to better ensure capabilities and resources in key strategic areas;
  • Develop nuclear fuel supply chain capacity and promote cooperation with nations seeking to end reliance on civil nuclear fuel and related goods from nations that present ongoing geopolitical threats to energy security;
  • Advance sustainability principles including the circular economy in the nuclear sector through responsible use of nuclear technology and life-cycle management of nuclear materials;
  • Promote inclusiveness and diversity, including gender diversity, building on the 2023 OECD Recommendation on Improving the Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector.

They called on policymakers to "foster a financial environment that promotes investment in nuclear energy". They urged regulators to modernise regulatory frameworks to "license nuclear technologies efficiently" and to increase cooperation to reduce "regulatory barriers to deployment of technologies in multiple countries". They also urged governments to "develop technology-neutral climate policies in which nuclear energy is fairly compensated for its low-carbon, resilience and reliability value".

With respect to the forthcoming 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28 scheduled for November in Dubai) they said the event should "take action to ensure we succeed in meeting our collective climate goals and to recognise the important role that nuclear energy will play in meeting these goals".

Energy ministers and heads of delegation issued a separate communique noting that nuclear energy already plays a significant role in meeting climate goals “and can play an even larger role in achieving global net zero emissions by 2050, consistent with the 1.5°C scenario and with the Paris Agreement".

It called for extending the operation of existing NPPs and "large-scale deployment of new nuclear power plants". Securing the required increase in global nuclear energy “will require strategic international collaboration among like-minded governments as well as public-private partnerships and industry leadership".

The communique noted: “We encourage multinational development banks, international financial institutions and regional bodies that have the mandate to do so to, consider financing nuclear energy in light of energy access, energy security and climate priorities. We encourage financial institutions to classify nuclear energy, as appropriate, with all other zero and low emission energy sources in finance taxonomies internationally.”

With respect to COP28, the ministers stressed the need to explore innovative financial approaches for funding and for "greater inclusion of nuclear energy in the environmental, social and governance policies in the international financial system considering that it is one of the zero and low-emissions sources of power generation that can contribute substantially to climate change mitigation".

They stated their commitment to international collaboration in support of “the creation and maintenance of enabling policy frameworks, regulatory pathways, and codes and standards to enable nuclear energy deployment". They also pledge to ensure safe and efficient waste management strategies, support research and development. They undertook to enable integrated supply chains as and to explore collaborations “on strategic opportunities in uranium extraction, conversion, enrichment, and fuel fabrication to develop secure and reliable nuclear fuel supply chains for the operating reactor fleets and new advanced reactors".

The communiqué included commitments on skills, public engagement and a call to recognise “the role that hydrogen from zero and low-emission sources, including nuclear technologies, can play in decarbonising hard-to-abate industrial sectors, as a vector of energy transition, with positive effects on the cost competitiveness of the hydrogen market and supply chain".

The ministers called on NEA "to coordinate with stakeholders in our countries to develop and support a network of industry leaders, government officials, researchers, and experts as a practical, solutions-oriented approach to support decision-makers in maximising the full potential of long-term operation of large reactors, large reactors new build projects and development and deployment of SMRs for power generation and industrial applications".

At a subsequent press conference, the EU’s internal market Commissioner Thierry Breton said the European Investment Bank (EIB) ought to “support the EU’s key public policies”, and so should finance nuclear energy. Asked about the possible reluctance of EU countries such as Germany to allow EU funds to be used for nuclear power, Pannier-Runacher said that “the problem lies in the different treatment of two energies that contribute to the same [decarbonisation] goals”, referring to nuclear power and renewables.

The Ministers’ communique said: “We intend to explore innovative financing approaches, including public-private partnerships, to facilitate access to capital for refurbishment, long-term operation, spent fuel and waste long-term storage & disposal, and new nuclear build projects internationally while mitigating the economic costs of risk through public support mechanisms.”

Image courtesy of Urenco