Highlights of the Nuclear Energy and Climate Change Conference
The International Conference on Climate Change and Nuclear Power is currently taking place in Vienna, Austria. The conference is taking place at a time when many countries of the world are pressing for immediate climate action.
The conference has been organized by the IAEA, in cooperation with the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), bringing together 550 participants representing 79 countries and 18 international organizations to exchange science-based information and conduct objective discussions on the role of nuclear power in mitigating climate change
The panelists agreed that the single most important issue to face in climate change is: what is the right mix of technologies and methods that will enable us to be successful? Nuclear power was considered to be playing a major role in Climate Change mitigation.
Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA), said nuclear energy can help realize the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“With low levels of greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear power contributes to emissions reduction today, and potentially in the future,” he said. “Existing nuclear power plants have avoided approximately 1 to 2 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year when compared with gas or coal alternatives.”
Representing the global industry, Director General of the World Nuclear Association (WNA) Agneta Rising pointed out how nuclear power is already moving higher on the climate change agenda.
“The global nuclear industry is committed to delivering what it needs to do to save our planet from climate change,” she said. “Our technology is ready. Our supply chain is ready. And our people are ready. But, to achieve the targets of our success, we also need support from governments. Otherwise, the nuclear option might fade away or not deliver its full potential.”
Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) of the OECD, also remarked about the importance of action as well as data.
“Global emissions reached a global high,” Birol said. “There is a growing and dangerous disconnect between climate emissions reports, meetings, government intentions and what is happening in real life. There are more reports, more discussions; more speeches, but emissions still increase.”
According to OECD/IEA numbers, nuclear power is the second-largest clean energy source today, following all renewable put together. In advanced economies, it is number one, accounting for an 18% share of all electricity generation.
The conference is set to conclude at the end of the week, and experts this week will continue to discuss key issues such as advancing energy policies that achieve the climate change goals; the long-term operation of existing nuclear power plants and their contribution to avoiding GHG emissions; the factors necessary to support high rates of deployment, including for advanced nuclear power technologies; public perceptions of the role of nuclear power in climate change mitigation; and the prospects for synergies between nuclear power and other low-carbon energy sources.