Climate Change

IAEA Conference / Reducing Emissions ‘Difficult To Achieve’ Without Nuclear

By David Dalton
7 October 2019

Around 80% of electricity will need to be low-carbon by 2050, up from 30% today
Reducing Emissions ‘Difficult To Achieve’ Without Nuclear
Cornel Feruță said reducing emissions will be a major challenge without nuclear. Photo courtesy IAEA.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and the goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions will be difficult to achieve without a significant increase in the use of nuclear power, International Atomic Energy Agency acting director-general Cornel Feruță said today at the opening of the International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power.

Some 550 participants representing 79 countries and 18 international organisations are taking part in the week-long conference, the first on this topic to be organised by the Vienna-based agency.

The IAEA said nuclear power plants emit practically no GHG emissions or air pollutants during their operation and, over their life cycle, are the second-lowest emitting source of electricity after hydro. Currently, 30 countries operate 449 nuclear power reactors worldwide, generating 10% of the world’s electricity and one third of all low carbon electricity. In terms of emissions avoidance, that’s the equivalent of taking 400 million cars off the road every year.

Mr Feruță said around 70% of the world’s electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. By 2050, if climate change goals are to be met, around 80% of electricity will need to be low-carbon and “making that transition will be a major challenge.”

“At present, nuclear power provides 10% of the world’s electricity. But it accounts for one-third of all low-carbon electricity generated today. That fact deserves to be better known.”

Mr Feruță added: “Advances being made in several countries concerning the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste may help to alleviate public concerns about the long-term sustainability of nuclear power.”

The conference will discuss issues such as advancing energy policies that achieve the climate change goals and the long-term operation of existing nuclear power plants and their contribution to avoiding GHG emissions.

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