Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be difficult to achieve without a significant increase in the use of nuclear power, IAEA Acting Director General Cornel Feruta said today.
He spoke at the opening of the International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power in Vienna, Austria.
Some 550 participants representing 79 countries and 18 international organizations are taking part in the weeklong conference, the first on this topic to be organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Held in cooperation with the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the event serves as a unique forum for exchanging science-based information and conducting objective discussions on the role of nuclear power in mitigating climate change.
Nuclear power plants emit practically no GHG emissions or air pollutants during their operation and, over their life cycle, are the second-lowest emitting source of electricity after hydro.
Currently, 30 countries operate 449 nuclear power reactors worldwide, generating 10% of the world’s electricity and one third of all low carbon electricity. In terms of emissions avoidance, that’s the equivalent of taking 400 million cars off the road every year.
Around 70% of the world’s electricity currently comes from burning fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency.
By 2050, around 80% of all electricity will need to be low carbon to meet the Paris Agreement goal of limiting the increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels to well below 2°C Celsius.
“Making that transition will be a major challenge,” Mr Feruta said. “It is difficult to see how the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved without a significant increase in the use of nuclear power in the coming decades.”
Mr Feruta added: “Advances being made in several countries concerning the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste may help to alleviate public concerns about the long-term sustainability of nuclear power.”
William D. Magwood, IV, Director-General of the NEA, also made opening remarks.
“Finding the right approach to long-term, economic and reliable electricity supply is the central challenge to the decarbonization of the future global economy,” Mr Magwood said.
“A vision of the future that incorporates variable renewable energy sources and cost-effective, advanced nuclear energy in a balance based on economic reality is one path to success.”