Climate Change

Cop28 / World Needs Sustained And Significant Investment In Nuclear Energy, Says IAEA

By David Dalton
1 December 2023

Landmark statement says reactors can help tackle the ‘existential challenge of a rapidly warming planet’

World Needs Sustained And Significant Investment In Nuclear Energy, Says IAEA
IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi announced the statement at Cop28 in Dubai. Courtesy IAEA.

The goal of global net zero carbon emissions can only be reached by 2050 with swift, sustained and significant investment in nuclear energy, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a landmark statement supported by dozens of countries at Cop28 in Dubai today (1 December).

The Vienna-based UN nuclear agency said in a statement announced by director-general Rafael Grossi that the world needs nuclear power to fight climate change and action should be taken to expand the use of this clean energy source and help build “a low-carbon bridge” to the future.

It was the first time such an IAEA statement was issued, its broad international backing underlining increased global interest in nuclear power to tackle the “existential challenge of a rapidly warming planet”.

The IAEA said the statement is a further indication of a new momentum for nuclear power as a source of reliable low-carbon energy, needed also to meet growing electricity demand and achieve sustainable economic development.

Nuclear power has the potential to play a wider role in the quest towards net zero carbon emissions, the statement said. It can help to decarbonise district heating, desalination, industry processes and hydrogen production.

According to the IAEA, nuclear power emits no greenhouse gasses when it is produced and contributes to energy security and the stability of the power grid, while facilitating the broader uptake of solar and wind power.

Locally, it cuts air pollution, which is one of today’s biggest public health crises causing the death of eight million people a year.

SMRs Can Make Nuclear ‘Easier To Build’

Innovative technologies, including small modular reactors, can make nuclear power easier to build, more flexible to deploy and more affordable, which is of particular importance to developing countries.

The agency said that to “build a low-carbon bridge” to the future operating nuclear power plants should remain online.

Grossi said that “achieving a fair and enabling investment environment for new nuclear projects remains an uphill battle. We are not at a level playing field, yet, when it comes to financing nuclear projects.”

“Analysts widely agree that nuclear power capacity will need to more than double by 2050 for current climate goals to be reached. We will need even more capacity to go beyond the electricity grid and decarbonise transport and industry,” he told the IAEA board of governors last month.

According to the IAEA, 412 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 31 countries make up more than 370 GW of installed capacity, providing almost 10% of the world’s total electricity and a quarter of its low-carbon supply. Several countries – including Bangladesh, Egypt and Turkey – are building their first nuclear power plants, while many others have also decided to introduce nuclear energy. Existing nuclear power countries, including China, France, India and Sweden, are planning to expand their nuclear programmes.

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