Nuclear Power is Crucial Solution to Energy Insecurity, UN Nuclear Chief Says

‘Net zero needs nuclear power,’ said the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Nuclear Power is Crucial Solution to Energy Insecurity, UN Nuclear Chief Says
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks with journalists after he and a part of the IAEA mission came back from a Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant at a Ukrainian checkpoint in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine, on Sept. 1, 2022. (Anna Voitenko/Reuters)
Aldgra Fredly

Nuclear power will play a crucial role in reaching net zero carbon emissions and energy security, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Rafael Mariano Grossi said at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, on Friday.

Speaking at COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Dec. 1, Mr. Grossi said that global net zero carbon emissions could only be achieved by 2050 and that it will require “swift, sustained and significant investment” in nuclear energy.

“Resilient and robust nuclear power has the potential to play a wider role in the quest towards net zero carbon emissions while ensuring the highest level of nuclear safety and security,” the IAEA chief stated.

“It can help to decarbonize district heating, desalination, industry processes, and hydrogen production,” he added.

Mr. Grossi also called on the need to maintain operating nuclear power plants in order to construct a low-carbon bridge. Nuclear power does not produce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Continuous plant life management and refurbishment ensure the ongoing safety and reliability of our existing fleet, allowing it to provide decarbonized energy to the electric grid and other sectors,” he added.

“Net zero needs nuclear power,” he said.

The IAEA said there are 412 nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries, which make up more than 370 gigawatts of installed capacity. This accounts for almost 10 percent of the world’s total electricity and a quarter of its low-carbon supply.

However, Mr. Grossi has said that achieving “a fair and enabling investment environment for new nuclear projects remains an uphill battle.”

“We are not at a level playing field, yet, when it comes to financing nuclear projects,” he remarked.

This marks the first time such an IAEA statement was issued, with its international backing underlining increased global interest in nuclear power in response to climate change, according to the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

Paris Climate Agreement

At the World Nuclear Exhibition in Paris on Nov. 28, Mr. Grossi said it would be necessary to increase the number of nuclear reactors in the world to achieve the objectives of the Paris climate agreement.

“We already have 10 countries which have entered the decision phase [to build nuclear power plants] and 17 others which are in the evaluation process,” he said.

“There will be a dozen or 13 [new] nuclear countries within a few years,” Mr. Grossi added.

The IAEA chief named Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Namibia, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan as potential new nuclear countries.

Nearly 200 countries agreed under the 2015 Paris Agreement to attempt to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial times, and aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius, the limit some climate scientists say would avoid severe and irreversible climate change impacts.

Each country is responsible for setting its own national targets and policies to contribute to the Paris Agreement’s overall goals.

Reuters contributed to this report.