International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power
7–11 October 2019
Kirsty Gogan, of LucidCatalyst and Energy for Humanity, was pleased to participate and present at this milestone event.
Climate change is one of the most important issues the world is facing today. Nuclear power can make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, while at the same time fulfilling the increasing energy demands of a growing world population and supporting global sustainable development. Nuclear power has considerable potential to meet the climate change challenge by providing electricity, district heating and high temperature heat for industrial processes, generated with almost zero greenhouse gas emissions.
To reach climate change goals, including those established in the Paris Agreement, a significantly greater deployment of low carbon energy technologies is needed. Nuclear power has the potential to play a significant role in achieving these mitigation goals and, as a large scale, reliable, dispatchable, and concentrated source of energy, can also contribute to broader economic and social dimensions of sustainable development. The potential role of nuclear power has been recently addressed also in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC, released in October 2018.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has an important role in improving the understanding of the potential contribution of nuclear power by providing interested Member States with guidance and assistance for deploying safe, secure and safeguarded nuclear technology and in formulating national energy strategies and policies. Supporting Member States in the attainment of the United Nations climate change targets and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is thus closely aligned with the statutory objective of the IAEA — to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world.
To this end, the IAEA organized the 2019 International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power in Vienna from 7 to 11 October 2019. The conference provided a platform to discuss objectively the scientific and technical aspects of the role of nuclear power in combating climate change. Topics covered in the conference included: challenges and opportunities for existing nuclear power plants with respect to their continuous contribution to the avoidance of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; factors necessary to support high rates of deployment, including for advanced nuclear power technologies, consistent with achieving the climate change goals, including those established in the Paris Agreement, and SDGs, namely SDG 7 (Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all) and SDG 13 (Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts); and the prospects for synergies between nuclear power and other low carbon energy sources.
The major thematic areas of the conference comprised the mitigation challenge and implications for the power sector, including the role of nuclear power, stimulated by the engagement of Member States and various international organizations to improve the understanding of the relationship between nuclear and climate. The discussion was guided by the following questions: “Where are we?”; “Where do we want to go?”; and “How do we get there?”. The broad themes tackled nuclear power’s interim and long term contributions (at present, until 2030, and beyond 2030) targeting future innovative applications, opportunities to address common challenges, and strategic and cross-cutting issues relating to public perception, regulations, markets and finance.
The conference provided an opportunity to discuss mainstreaming nuclear power as a low carbon energy source and its role in combating climate change.
Purpose and themes
The purpose of the conference was to provide a forum for the exchange of information on the role of nuclear power, and on the opportunities and challenges of safe, secure and safeguarded nuclear technology development in supporting the low carbon energy transformation needed to achieve the climate change goals.
The conference themes included a description of the mitigation challenge, implications for the power sector, environmental perspectives, and potential roles of existing, evolutionary and innovative nuclear power systems, including the integration of nuclear/renewable energy systems. See topics below.
The IAEA brought together Member States, representatives of relevant low carbon energy sectors, international organizations, and other parties.
The six key topics of the conference included:
Advancing energy policies that achieve the climate change goals:
– How nuclear power can contribute when planning for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) updates.
The increasing contribution of nuclear power in the mitigation of climate change, including synergies with other low carbon power generation sources:
– Challenges and opportunities for existing nuclear power plants with respect to the continuous contribution to the avoidance of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions;
– How nuclear power can add a large volume of sustainable clean energy for electricity generation and non-electric applications, including through integration into hybrid energy systems; and
– Synergies between nuclear power and other low carbon energy sources.
Development and deployment of advanced nuclear power technologies to increase the use of low carbon energy:
– Challenges associated with the rapid introduction of new nuclear power technologies into the market, and the implementation of effective regulatory processes; and
– How to reduce GHGs in each stage of the nuclear fuel cycle, from front end to back end.
Shaping the future of the nuclear industry in regulated and deregulated energy markets to address climate change:
– How to ensure the availability of resources, including attracting finance and ensuring competitiveness of new nuclear power projects.
Enhancing international cooperation and partnership in nuclear power deployment:
– How to facilitate and foster development and deployment of nuclear power technologies through international cooperation and partnerships, including with organizations and partners of other low carbon technologies.
Public and non-nuclear stakeholders’ perception of the role of nuclear power in climate change mitigation:
– How to engage with the public and open effective channels of communication with other stakeholders in the field of energy, environment and climate change.