Nuclear Politics

Rafael Grossi / Nuclear Is And Must Be Part Of Solution To Climate Change

By David Dalton
20 September 2021

IAEA head warns of consequences of failure to embrace energy source
Nuclear Is And Must Be Part Of Solution To Climate Change
Rafael Grossi said a lack of willingness to embrace nuclear energy would curtail capacity growth and hamper efforts to halt climate change. Courtesy IAEA.
The International Atomic Energy Agency will highlight the role of nuclear techniques in supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, with director-general Rafael Grossi saying he will personally deliver the message to the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow that nuclear energy “is and must be part of the solution”.

In a statement to the 65th regular session of the agency’s general conference, which is taking place in Vienna this week, Mr Grossi said nuclear can help with climate-smart agriculture, sustainable land-water use, and the environment.

He said the agency’s latest forecast envisages a doubling of the present levels of nuclear-generated electricity production capacity by 2050 in the high case scenario. This relies on both lifetime extensions of existing plants and about 550 GW of new build.

According to the agency’s low case scenario, however, a lack of willingness to embrace nuclear energy would curtail capacity growth, causing the world to fall well short of doing what is necessary to avoid a climate catastrophe.

The 444 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 32 countries today provide approximately 395 GW of installed capacity, supplying some 10% of the world’s electricity and more than a quarter of all low-carbon electricity. There are 50 reactors under construction in 19 countries, which are expected to provide almost 53 GW of additional capacity.

Mr Grossi noted that for the second consecutive year the agency is holding the conference amid the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has “truly woken all of us up to the profound dangers of zoonotic diseases”.

The agency’s emergency response to Covid-19 has been the biggest in its history, with RT-PCR testing kits to 304 laboratories in 129 countries.

RT-PCR, or real time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, is a nuclear-derived technique that can be used in the detection and characterisation of viruses.

Mr Grossi said the agency is doing its share in the endeavour to make sure the international community is better prepared for another viral outbreak.

Its “zoonotic disease integrated action”, or Zodiac, initiative now has 143 national coordinators and 116 designated Zodiac national laboratories.

Mr Grossi said the agency has started procurement arrangements to cover their needs and will continue its assistance as it receives additional extrabudgetary support. “I call upon member states in a position to do so, to consider making a financial contribution to our common goal,” he said.

He said the IAEA helped 146 countries and territories last year through its technical cooperation programme, 35 of which were least developed countries. The main areas of work beyond the Covid-19 response were health and nutrition, food and agriculture, and safety and security.

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