The rise in popularity can be undone in one accident.

Essenbach, Bavaria, 21 July 2022: Water vapor rises behind a sunflower from the cooling system of the nuclear power plant (NPP) Isar 2.

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Nuclear energy is at an inflection point. Early enthusiasm for its potential was marred by a series of devastating and dangerous accidents on Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania in 1979. Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986. And in 2011 Fukushima Daiichi in Japan.

But now, thanks to new technologies and the ever-increasing need to combat climate change, nuclear energy has a second chance to become an important part of the world’s energy grid. That’s because nuclear power does not emit any of the dangerous greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

A panel discussion at the United Nations on Tuesday brought together nuclear energy leaders from around the world to highlight the scope of its renaissance and how important it is for the industry to work together to ensure gold standard safety measures are adopted everywhere. We discussed why.

A nuclear accident has the potential to reverse the greatest momentum the nuclear industry has had in decades.

Projected global demand of $1 trillion

US Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm said nuclear energy accounts for 20% of US baseload electricity and 50% of carbon-free electricity. “And that’s from the fleet we have today, barring any other additions we’d like.”

Future nuclear reactors and plants will almost certainly use technology that differs from today’s standards. It funds research into efficient nuclear reactors. I mentioned

The Department of Energy estimates that global demand for advanced nuclear reactors is about $1 trillion, Granholm said. This includes the work to build the reactor and all the associated supply chains that need to be set up to support the industry, Granholm said.

“Ultimately, the deployment of advanced nuclear energy is our priority,” Granholm said. “Of course, all of these technologies must start with nuclear safety and security and end with nuclear safety.”

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the change in sentiment surrounding nuclear energy happened very quickly.

A photo of dogs walking past a Ferris wheel in Pripyat, the ghost town near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, May 29, 2022. during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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At the annual COP meeting, which stands for Conference of the Parties and provides an opportunity for world leaders to discuss climate change, “until just a few years ago, nuclear power didn’t exist and probably wouldn’t even have been welcomed.” “The IAEA has rapidly gone from being almost an intruder to a very welcome participant in this dialogue in which nuclear power plays a key role.”

The next COP meeting will be held in November in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, followed by Dubai Expo City in the United Arab Emirates. The IAEA will participate in both of these meetings.

“The mere fact that we are talking about a nuclear-armed COP in Egypt or in the Gulf states gives us a sense of what is happening, how we are changing, and the potential that we have. It says a lot about sex and the possibilities that were almost there, unpredictable just a few years ago,” Grossi said.

safety first

But if nuclear power is to remain a part of these conferences and discussions on climate change, supporters stress that the entire international community must work together to adhere to strict safety and non-proliferation standards. I’m here.

“No one buys a car that gets into an accident every day. Safety and security are the cornerstones of a successful nuclear energy deployment,” said Hamad Al Kaabi, the IAEA’s representative to the United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday. Told. .

“It’s a question of how the nuclear industry works and how it’s perceived globally, wherever it happens, it’s the same everywhere,” Al-Khabi said.

Al Kaabi said the UAE has three reactors in operation and a fourth reactor in the final stages of commissioning. But building a nuclear power plant takes time, and the process began in the UAE about 13 years ago.

Vietnam has been considering nuclear power for decades, according to the World Nuclear Association, an international trade group. The country announced plans to build a nuclear power plant in 2006, but postponed the plan to 2016. Then, in March, Vietnam unveiled its official energy proposal, which included small modular reactors.

Deputy Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc said at Tuesday’s event that both the US and the IAEA have helped lead Vietnam in its efforts to include nuclear energy in its national energy plan. Nuclear reactors are an attractive option for a relatively small country, Ngoc said.

According to the World Nuclear Association, South Africa has two nuclear reactors and other African countries are now interested in deploying nuclear energy.

“Most of the countries in Africa, where I come from, have very small power grids,” said Collins Juma, CEO of Kenya’s Nuclear Energy Agency. Advanced reactor designs, especially small modular reactors, are interesting, but Juma hinted that it may be difficult to afford the cost of such reactors. “I’m not sure about the cost, but we plan to discuss that in another forum.”

As Africa grapples with decarbonization, nuclear power is an important baseload to accompany wind, solar and geothermal on the continent. But getting nuclear energy into Africa requires strong, independent regulation and convincing people that it is safe.

“Nuclear is a very emotional topic,” Juma said. And it’s something that “everyone is an expert” and thinks they know it’s dangerous. And we need to give the public, especially the public, confidence that nuclear power plants are safe,” he said.

Juma said he is seeking guidance from major nuclear powers and organizations. “When you copy, just copy from the best, never from the worst,” he said.

For countries interested in building nuclear power plants, the IAEA has produced a working guidebook, Milestones in the Development of National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power. This is a good place for countries to start, Grossi said.

“We know these are serious times and an emergency for the planet,” Grossi said. “We have been saying this, nuclear is not for the few. Nuclear is for the many.” The rise in popularity can be undone in one accident.

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