Bilbao y León and Grossi on nuclear’s opportunities and challenges

Source: World nuclear news

Date: Sept 09, 2022

Sama Bilbao y León:

“I have waited for almost two years for the opportunity to see all of you in person here in London at World Nuclear Symposium. And quite a bit has changed since I took the reins of World Nuclear Association.

Since then the world has realised that climate change not only is real, but it is here. And despite massive investment in renewable energy sources, the percentage of low carbon global electricity today is pretty much the same as at the beginning of the 21st century.

The world has remembered the importance of energy security and energy independence, and how essential it is to have access to abundant 24/7 energy independently of geopolitical pressures, the weather or the season.

The world has recognised that the clean energy transition cannot leave anyone behind. As we move forward to decarbonise global energy systems, we need to ensure that every human on earth has access to abundant clean, affordable, energy so they can reach the quality of life we enjoy in high-income countries. Health, education, fresh and nutritious food, clean water, clean air, rewarding work to contribute to society, access to leisure and entertainment.

The world is taking another look at nuclear energy.

We are seeing a sea change both in policy and public opinion towards nuclear energy across the globe, and this creates huge opportunities for the global nuclear industry.

We are seeing countries reverse their plans to permanently shut down nuclear reactors. We are seeing plans to extend the life of the existing fleet for as long as feasible. We are seeing countries, existing nuclear countries and newcomers, consider nuclear energy as an essential part of their energy mix to tackle net-zero.

The great news is that nuclear energy is one of the only technologies that can produce low-carbon electricity and heat at the same time, 24/7 in any weather and in any season, which could be a game-changer to decarbonise the entire economy including other hard-to-abate sectors beyond electricity, such as industrial processes, heating and cooling of buildings, shipping, hydrogen generation or the production of fresh water.

Ambitious, yet realistic scenarios, indicate that nuclear capacity will need to grow four-fold by 2050 if we are to meet the 1.5 degree goal. This means existing nuclear and new nuclear. Large, small and micro reactors. Traditional reactors and advanced reactors. For the production of electricity and for non-electric applications.

For this vision to become a reality, there are a few things that need to happen and all of them are up to us. We the global nuclear industry need to take the future in our hands for this vision to happen.

Streamlined licensing and regulatory frameworks that allow the optimum deployment of nuclear technology at a global level. While national regulators retain their sovereignty, the processes are in place for them to collaborate and build upon each other’s work. We go from a never ending series of first-of-a-kind projects, to an efficient series of nth of a kind projects when we have fast learning curves.

Robust supply chains, capacity and know-how has been re-established at a global level. These robust capabilities allow the industry to deploy nuclear projects on time and on budget every time.

The industry is capable of attracting, retaining and developing the best and the most diverse talent to support this growth at a global level.

Nuclear energy gets access to affordable finance. Innovative finance and contractual frameworks that allocate the financial risk appropriately and incentivise project delivery are put in place. Nuclear is included in sustainable finance and ESG financing schemes at a global level.

We need to invest in ourselves, by laying down human, physical, commercial and institutional infrastructures that will allow the global nuclear sector to truly scale-up fast to meet the urgent and massive decarbonisation needs. We really have not got time to waste.

More than ever it is necessary for the global nuclear industry to collaborate, to scan the horizon together to identify challenges and opportunities and to work together to address them. 

World Nuclear Association is proud to be the international organisation that gathers the global nuclear industry, the entire nuclear fuel cycle and truly all continents. We look forward to continue connecting and representing the industry, and being a thought leader bringing nuclear energy in the global energy debate.

The global nuclear sector is at a crucial point. The future for nuclear power has not looked brighter in many years, but it is up to us to capitalise on the current momentum and make the absolute most of this opportunity to deliver the benefits of nuclear energy at the scale and with the speed the world needs.

We have less than 30 years to reach net-zero. Nuclear energy offers a golden opportunity to build a cleaner, more equitable world, in which everyone has access to clean abundant affordable energy and a high quality of life.

In this World Nuclear Symposium 2022 we will explore together those challenges and lay out paths forward to take advantage of these opportunities.

It is time for the nuclear industry to raise to the energy challenge. We have no time to lose. And we can do it.”

Rafael Mariano Grossi

“We are at a defining moment for nuclear. Even more crucial, the world is at a pivotal point in its transition to a more sustainable secure and stable energy future. Driven by climate change and the energy crisis, governments around the world are reconsidering their portfolios in favour of nuclear power. Everyone in the nuclear field, be it industry, the regulators or the IEA needs to be ready to play their part. 

We will need to address several challenges. Let me start with the most immediate one, The threat of an accident at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Just a few days ago, I led a team of IAEA experts in safety, security and safeguards to that site. We toured key areas and established a continued IAEA presence there.

I’m doing everything in my power to reduce the chance of an accident at Zaporizhzhia, because it could pose a great threat to the lives and livelihoods of people at the plant and communities around it. An accident would also have a chilling effect on people’s acceptance of nuclear power. And that would be very unfortunate because dimming the future of the world’s second biggest, low-carbon source of energy would cause many more people living all over the world to suffer. Economic growth would become more tense. Pollution will continue to kill millions of people every year and the disastrous consequences of our warming planet would become ever greater in all continents.

While we do all we can at Zaporizhzhia, I urge you not to let your valid concerns about the situation in Ukraine distract you from the important role in ensuring that nuclear energy fulfils its promise because people are counting on you. Public opinion polls, from East Asia to Central Europe, from countries with and countries without nuclear power programmes, show more and more ordinary people putting their trust in nuclear.  

It is imperative that we are proactive in addressing the sector’s challenges, like regulatory harmonisation and standardisation for example. For years SMRs (small modular reactors) have been the technology of tomorrow but they need to move from development to safe and secure deployment and in time to make a difference to the industries and countries eagerly awaiting them.

I know many of you are part of NHSI (Nuclear Harmonisation Standardisation Initiative), the initiative I launched this year to help make that happen. I met with some of you in Vienna just last week. So let’s redouble our efforts in designing and implementing standardised and harmonised results. That means seizing every opportunity to collaborate and work on the essentials. 

It means highlighting and prioritising our common goals. We need to keep working on issues that are of understandable concern to governments and the general public. Issues, such as, of course, safety and nuclear waste. But to do that we need to involve our stakeholders and be honest and open because people have choices, politicians have constituents to serve, lenders have investors to repay and insurers have risk to manage. But without trust, we won’t be able to achieve very much. Here in Europe, especially, historic budget and time overruns are legacies that chain the way people think about nuclear.

Today industries across the board are facing supply chains challenges and the effects of cost inflation and the nuclear sector is no different. Those headwinds require innovative responses. Careful planning and a high degree of realism. All around the world the IAEA assists countries in laying the foundation of a successful nuclear energy programme by helping them build the institutions that put safety security and safeguarding first.
There are levers industry can pull to support the IAEA by helping us to fulfil our mission of atoms for peace and development you are supporting the world’s transition to a more sustainable energy future.  

So let’s work together. We have some exciting opportunities coming up, including the IAEA’s energy ministerial conference in the United States this October and COP27 in Egypt, a few weeks later, We need to seize this moment, these opportunities, More and more people want and need nuclear to be part of the solution to the world’s biggest problems. 

It is up to us to make it happen.”



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