April 3

Pro-nuclear leaders push atomic energy to cut CO2 emissions, boost security of supply

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A global push to expand nuclear power continued recently as world leaders from more than 30 countries and the European Union met at the inaugural Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels. The world’s first high-level meeting on March 22 focused entirely on nuclear energy, comes as countries struggle to meet CO2 reduction goals, drive sustainable development, and boost energy security.

“Indeed, the inaugural Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels marks a pivotal moment in the global energy landscape,” Tatiana Mitrova, a research fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, told NE Global on March 27. “As countries grapple with the dual challenges of meeting ambitious climate targets and ensuring energy security, nuclear power is now increasingly being recognized as a key part of the solution,” she added.

Increased financing, workforce development and more proactive support to nuclear newcomer countries were identified as key to long-term success, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said.

IAEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said his organization expects nuclear power generation to reach a record high in 2025. “Today I can assure you that nuclear is coming back, and coming back strongly,” he stressed.

Industry representatives also affirmed their readiness to support governmental efforts to expand nuclear power in a joint statement. They pledged to work closely with interested governments and support the continued operation of existing nuclear power facilities, the construction of new ones and the development of nuclear infrastructure both in the United States and around the world,” said John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy, Innovation and Implementation in the United States.

The role of nuclear in the energy mix

Asked if there is a revival of nuclear power, Francesco Sassi, research fellow in energy geopolitics and markets at RIE in Bologna, Italy, told NE Global on March 27, “I would not call this phase a revival or renaissance of nuclear power in Europe, but rather a second opportunity for those countries with an expertise in this industry to reconsider its role within the national energy mix.” He noted that nuclear is expensive, is technologically demanding, and it also requires a stable political background to implement such large investments.

During his opening remarks at the iconic Atomium in Brussels, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who co-chaired the Summit together with Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander de Croo, underlined the need for action. Grossi said acknowledging nuclear energy’s necessity isn’t enough. “It’s on political leaders to foster environments that encourage nuclear development. Without decisive action, the potential for nuclear to support the green transition could be lost,” he said.

The European Commission recently launched the European Industrial Alliance on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to help accelerate development and deployment.

French President Emmanuel Macron, a proponent of nuclear power globally, noted that nuclear power is currently responsible for around 25 percent of global low carbon electricity production, but deployment will need to expand significantly in the coming decades in order for the world to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050. “Last year’s COP28 was the first-time nuclear power had been included in the Global Stocktake, a final agreement that assesses where the world stands on achieving the objectives of the 2015 Paris Agreement and how shortcomings might be rectified. In total, 22 countries agreed to work towards tripling nuclear power capacity by 2050, with an additional three countries signing on to the pledge since then,” Macron said.

The French President also argued that nuclear energy is essential to boost energy security, improve competitiveness and create jobs.

The road to COP29

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, who also participated and spoke at the Nuclear Energy Summit, emphasized that the inclusion of nuclear energy as one of the methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, stressing that Azerbaijan will prioritize nuclear safety during its presidency at COP29. “As we move towards COP29, it’s evident that nuclear energy will be a major topic of discussion,” Mitrova told NE Global. “This nuclear revival is not just about meeting current energy demands but is a forward-looking approach to sustainable development and climate resilience, especially for the energy-hungry emerging economies,” she added.

Kazakhstan’s deliberations on nuclear energy

Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Company Kazatomprom Chairman Meirzhan Yusupov and the head of the Kazakh Mission to the EU, Ambassador Margulan Baimukhan, also took part in the Nuclear Energy Summit. The delegation from Kazakhstan joined the session on Securing the fuel supply chain. With 43 percent of world production as of 2022, Kazakhstan is the world’s number one producer of uranium. It owns the second largest uranium reserves globally and is the biggest uranium exporter to the EU. The country currently supplies 13 percent of the EU’s uranium imports.

Kazakhstan will hold, in near future, a referendum on the construction of the first nuclear power plant in the nation’s territory, as a response to the discussions on energy diversification and ensuring climate neutral energy sources.

In May, Kazakhstan, together with Australia, will head the International Conference of the IAEA on Nuclear Security in Vienna.

Uranium mining enterprises in Kyzylorda and Turkestan regions of Kazakhstan. Photo: KAZATOPROM

Mitrova said the involvement of Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in the Nuclear Energy Summit in Belgium is particularly noteworthy. “These Caspian countries are obviously interested to play a role in the nuclear energy sector renaissance. Generally, Central Asia has strategic position in the nuclear fuel cycle, coupled with its potential for nuclear power development and growing domestic energy deficit,” Mitrova said.

For his part, Sassi noted that essentially, all countries in Central Asia have spoken positively regarding the opportunity to build new nuclear power plants on their territories. “And yet, we have not seen much of these investments become a reality. Instead of a watershed moment for the global nuclear industry, COP29 could become a moment for realizing how important is the role of nuclear diplomacy in the region. On this, I certainly see Russia, the U.S., and also China challenging each towards COP29 and in the years ahead, while France and South Korea would play a more secondary role in this scenario,” Sassi said.

On that note, Mitrova said financing challenges will significantly impact the region’s costly nuclear projects, with countries unlikely to utilize their own resources or secure international funding.

Source: Neglobal.eu

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