“Why Humanity Needs Nuclear”, the launch event on 30 April of Rosatom’s Atoms for Humanity initiative, centred on the social, environmental and global partnerships aspects of the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). More than 3,200 people from 40 countries watched the launch of the project, which aims to demonstrate the importance of nuclear technology for achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals through human stories.
The event was moderated by Kirsty Gogan, managing partner at Lucid Catalyst and a co-founder of Terra Praxis, and saw contributions from Rosatom’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Polina Lion; World Nuclear Association (WNA) Director General Sama Bilbao y Léon; Egypt’s Dr Maher Aziz, a member of the World Energy Council; Australia’s Ben Heard, Director of environmental NGO, Bright New World; and Sergio Orlandi, Chief Executive Engineer of the ITER fusion project.
The presentations were interspersed with documentary films showing how nuclear energy has affected the lives of ordinary people in several countries. The film on Turkey comprised a video message made by Burak Alatli and Canan Hayran Alatli, both nuclear engineers at the Akkuyu NPP, for their daughter. In Egypt, Abdel Makil Tamawi, the oldest fisherman in Marsa Metruh spoke about the benefits that the El Dabaa NPP would bring to the region. In Bulgaria, a part-time beekeeper, described his work as a nuclear engineer at the Kozloduy NPP. The Atoms for Humanity website offers more such stories and provides the facility for people worldwide to upload their own experiences of the nuclear industry.
In her introductory remarks, Polina Leon said energy was and important component for achieving the UN SDGs, adding that it was reliable, low carbon and almost zero waste. Noting the importance of energy security to support healthcare, infrastructure, agriculture, and economic development, she said nuclear is “a universal tool to ensure a better future for everyone”.
WNA Director General Sama Bilbao y Léon said: "The fact that nuclear energy is a very low emissions technology is going to ensure that we have clean air, clean water and that we have plenty of open space to actually enjoy and have healthy communities." However, she added that many people do not appreciate the "incredibly important role" nuclear science and technology plays beyond electricity supply. "The reality is there is a tremendous need for skilled technicians, engineers, physicists, radiation experts and nuclear medicine specialists that need to be there to provide the support for the implementation of nuclear technology and science for the benefit of society," she said. "We are going to have a very high number of highly rewarding, well-paid, long-term jobs that are going to be within the context of nuclear science and technology."
Dr Maher Aziz said the establishment of a nuclear power plant encourages economic growth not only in the host country but in the surrounding region through the development of infrastructure and boosting GDP and job opportunities. He noted that in Metruh, the NPP being built at El Dabaa had already resulted in construction of a marina, development of road networks and plans for an industrial zone.
Ben Heard described how his environmentalist views had changed once he understood the benefits of nuclear energy. “"It was 10 years ago this year that I first spoke up publicly to say that I had changed my mind on this particular issue; an issue that had felt really consequential to my identity as someone who really cared about the environment," he said. He added that it was climate change that stimulated his interest in nuclear technologies, noting that the word 'clean' applies to nuclear energy in a 'holistic' way. He said that, in contrast to some other clean energy technologies, nuclear benefits land use. "The last thing I want to see us doing is liquidating scarce natural landscapes in the name of tackling climate change”. The beauty of nuclear technology is that “we can have that energy at scale, and the clean air and the clean water, and preserve our landscapes, and actually help to begin restoring them, which is for me extremely powerful”.
Sergio Orlandi gave a detailed description of the ITER fusion reactor under construction in Cadarache, France, stressing the importance of international co-operation in realising the project. He added that the development of fission and fusion power together would result in low cost energy for all humanity while also preserving the environment.
The event ended with the message that, “Nuclear is the foundation of prosperity today and a better living tomorrow.”