Climate Change

Rafael Grossi / ‘Nuclear And Renewables Are Not In Competition With Each Other’

By David Dalton
12 December 2019

Nuclear science and technology have important role to play in addressing climate emergency, IAEA head tells COP25
‘Nuclear And Renewables Are Not In Competition With Each Other’
Rafael Grossi speaking at COP25 in Madrid. Photo courtesyy IAEA.
Greater use of low-carbon nuclear power is needed to ensure the global transition to clean energy, including as baseload backup to variable renewables such as solar and wind, International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi told a side event at the UN’s COP25 climate conference in Madrid on Wednesday.

Mr Grossi, on his first trip since taking office as director-general of the Vienna-based agency last week, said it is his “firm belief” that nuclear science and technology have an important role to play in helping the world to address the climate emergency. “That view is shared by many of the IAEA’s 171 member states,” he said.

The IAEA said the world is “well off the mark” from reaching the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. With around two-thirds of the world’s electricity still generated through burning fossil fuels, and despite growing investment in renewable energy sources, global emissions of greenhouse gases reached a record high last year.

Mr Grossi said greater deployment of a diverse mix of low-carbon sources such as hydro, wind and solar, as well as nuclear power and battery storage, will be needed to reverse that trend and set the world on track to meet climate goals.

“We should not see nuclear energy and renewables as being in competition with one another,” he said in Madrid. “We need to make use of all available sources of clean energy.”

He said it is not a coincidence that some countries with nuclear power have already largely decarbonised their electricity production – France and Sweden, for example.

Nuclear power provides about 10% of the world’s electricity, but contributes one third of all low-carbon electricity. Nuclear plants produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants during their operation. They are able to operate around the clock at near full capacity, while variable renewables require backup power during their output gaps.

Mr Grossi said nuclear power “needs a place at the table” where the world’s energy future is decided and that he was encouraged by his talks with other international organisations and their willingness to work with the IAEA towards a cleaner climate.

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