IAEA: Nuclear power is essential to achieving climate goals

14 October 2019

In his closing remarks to the International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power, which ended in Vienna on 11 October, IAEA Acting Director General Cornel Feruta told participants: “We all recognise that climate change is one of the gravest concerns facing the world today. We all agree that moving in just a few decades towards a world in which most electricity is carbon-free will be very challenging. But it has to be done.”

He said the main message from the conference is that “to meet the climate goals which the nations of the world have agreed on, we need to be much more ambitious” and this must include making full use of all carbon-free energy technologies. “And without a significant role for nuclear power in the world’s energy mix, climate goals will not be met by the agreed deadlines. It is that simple,” he emphasised.

“All four model pathways identified by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to achieve the climate goals by 2050 would require a significant increase in nuclear power capacity compared with present-day levels,” he said. “Nuclear has a great story to tell. We should acknowledge concerns about issues such as safety and waste disposal and address misconceptions. But we must also highlight the great benefits which this remarkable technology offers to the world.” He noted the “broad agreement among participants on the need to implement innovations in the current nuclear fleet to extend the life of nuclear power plants” and “recognition of the need to reduce construction times and control the costs of new nuclear installations”, as well as “the need to develop new financial mechanisms to encourage private and public investment in nuclear projects”. 

One  clear message from the five-day conference was that the development and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies such as small modular reactors will be essential for the future. “There is a need to ensure that current and future nuclear technologies can be smoothly integrated with other carbon-free energy technologies,” said Feruta. “And more use should be made of nuclear power for non-electric applications such as cogeneration, district heating, hydrogen production and general industrial applications.”

During the #Atoms4Climate conference, participants discussed the prospects for synergies between nuclear power and other low-carbon energy sources, among other topics. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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