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UN Admits ‘Without nuclear, it will be almost impossible to decarbonize by 2050’

ADH Staff WriterJune 18, 2024

Nuclear energy received a significant endorsement at the 2023 UN climate conference in Dubai (COP28), where 198 nations recognised it as a key low-emission technology needed to move away from fossil fuels.

Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), discussed the implications of this development and the future of nuclear energy ahead of an international conference on the safe management of spent fuel. Speaking to UN News, Grossi highlighted the growing acceptance and importance of nuclear power in the global energy mix.

Grossi emphasised the critical role nuclear energy already plays in providing clean energy. “More than a third of the world’s CO2-free energy is nuclear, and in Europe, it’s half,” he stated. Despite historical setbacks from incidents like Chernobyl and Fukushima, which have fueled public apprehension and misinformation, nuclear energy is being reconsidered as a vital component in the fight against climate change.

The 2023 Dubai conference marked a turning point, with major nations committing to significantly increase their nuclear energy capacity. This inclusion of nuclear energy alongside renewables is seen as a major step forward. “This isn’t a nuclear renaissance but a return to pragmatic thinking,” Grossi said. He noted that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recognises that decarbonisation by 2050 is nearly impossible without nuclear energy.

Addressing the misinformation about nuclear energy, Grossi pointed out that the perceived high fatality rate associated with nuclear accidents is incorrect. “Thousands of people died due to the tsunami in Fukushima, but not a single person died from radiation exposure,” he clarified. He stressed the importance of governments providing accurate information to correct public misconceptions.

Grossi also highlighted a shift in attitudes, particularly in regions like Scandinavia, where environmental parties now support nuclear power. He emphasised that nuclear energy serves as a stable and controllable baseload energy source that complements renewables.

Financing for nuclear power in developing countries remains a significant issue. Currently, international financing is limited due to historically hostile policies, but this is changing. “International financial institutions are starting to review these policies,” Grossi noted. He pointed to the growing interest in nuclear energy in the global South, including countries like India, China, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Bangladesh, and South Africa, as well as several African nations exploring small modular reactors.

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