Nuclear Politics

Nuclear Energy Summit 2024 / Industry Needs Global Interconnections For New Reactors, Says Belgium’s Prime Minister

By Rumyana Vakarelska
27 March 2024

Leader backs calls for European Investment Bank to be ‘technology agnostic’, which means it could back reactor projects

Industry Needs Global Interconnections For New Reactors, Says Belgium’s Prime Minister
Belgium’s prime minister Alexander de Croo speaking at the summit, where he backed calls for the European Investment Bank to be technology agnostic.

Grid interconnections are needed globally to allow for the investment in all new energy technologies including nuclear, said Alexander De Croo, the prime minister of Belgium, which co-hosted the first ever nuclear energy summit (NES) in Brussels.

“We have it in Europe, but not globally,” De Croo told the summit, which was co-hosted by Belgium and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Multilateral financing has not yet been used for national projects, so we as legislators need to be clear of the objectives and what methodology to use for it,” De Croo said. “The European Investment Bank (EIB) has to be technology agnostic,” he added.

His remarks about the EIB follow recent comments that the bank could be ready to finance nuclear construction if the circumstances are right.

“Multilateral banks are effective when they provide leverage for private financing,” De Croo said.

He added that “the more technically diverse you are the more stable you are”.

“We need to adapt [small modular reactor] supply chains and balance things,” De Croo said.

“We have the technology information to help SMRs, giving countries the necessary capacity for infrastructure, which is commercially neutral.”

The Europeans want to continue to be open to the world and Egypt and Saudi Arabia are here, but it is not correct that the Arab world at large is not attending, De Croo said at NES. “Countries make their own energy choices,” he said.

Pro-nuclear Hungary is the next EU presidency holder, said De Croo speaking on behalf of the current EU presiding country, Belgium. “I see respectfully choices that countries make.”

So, “currently we are setting the agenda for the next [European] Commission to keep the heavy industry in Europe as it is moving away where the rules are less strict, but access to clean energy is the main factor,” according to De Croo.

“We need a good [clean energy] mix, including nuclear,” he said.

‘Those Who Want Nuclear Should Be Helped’

The IAEA is the global platform for nuclear and we need to make sure have a level playing field,” said Rafael Grossi, the agency’s director-general.

“Cop28 was a watershed in that every country agreed that nuclear energy is part of the solution,” according to Grossi.

“However, we need to have a basic consensus around the idea that those who want nuclear should be helped in doing so.”

He said the “US has done a bigger investment in nuclear fuel production to reduce dependence from Russian imports, Europe less, but let us not use this politically, as these are long-term infrastructure projects”.

“We need to bear in mind that new builds are coming without any fuel from Russia,” he said.

Grossi’s comments came in response to questions in the global nuclear power sector regrading a sufficient supply of nuclear fuel, following Cop28 commitments to triple nuclear power by 2050 from 400 GW to 1,200 GW.

Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, which will follow Belgium as the next EU president, said during the summit that the continuation of political support for the industry in Europe was important, adding that “only nuclear can satisfy the requirements of generating big quantities of electricity cheaply and safely, and in an environmentally friendly manner”.

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