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First Nuclear Energy Summit Opens In Brussels :: Uganda Radionetwork
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First Nuclear Energy Summit Opens In Brussels

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It comes in the wake of the historic inclusion of nuclear energy in the Global Stocktake agreed at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai in December 2023
23 Mar 2024 13:58
Leaders were expcted to come up with nuclear declaration Courtesy Photo IAEA

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The first-ever Nuclear Energy Summit opened in Belgium, where world leaders are gathering to discuss how nuclear power can help drive sustainable development.   The Nuclear Energy Summit will highlight this renewed momentum for nuclear power and also provide a high-level forum to showcase solutions for some of the issues the sector is facing to realize its full potential, including from an industrial perspective.

  The summit is chaired by Alexander De Croo, the Belgian Prime Minister, and co-hosted by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi.

  It comes in the wake of the historic inclusion of nuclear energy in the Global Stocktake agreed at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai in December 2023, which called for accelerating its deployment along with other low-carbon energy sources.

  Uganda, which is planning to construct nuclear power plants was among the countries that welcomed the inclusion of nuclear as one of the cleaner energy sources.

Speaking at the opening of the Summit, the Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo said reaching net Zero by 2050 will require human ingenuity and that nuclear energy will be part of reaching that ambitious goal.

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“It will require vast, safe, and reliable amounts of carbon-neutral energy. It will require a perspective for sustainable growth. It will require our citizens and industries on board. It will require nuclear energy as part of the mix” said Croo whose country has five nuclear reactors generating about half of its electricity. Belgium's first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1974.

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The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen said while there are different views in Europe about nuclear, she believed that technology can play an important role in the energy transition.

“I can also see that after the global crisis caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, many countries are giving a fresh look to the potential role that nuclear might play,” she said 

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She said nuclear is being adopted by countries to safeguard their energy security and to reduce on importation of fossil fuels. 

“Nuclear can provide a reliable anchor for electricity crisis. Now this renewed interest comes at a pivotal moment” she added. “Most pathways to net zero keep a place open for nuclear power”   It is being observed that more and more countries are either planning to introduce nuclear power in their energy mix or expand already existing nuclear energy programs. 

Ursula von der Leyen said nuclear capacity has to double until 2050. She revealed that the EU projections show that renewable sources are complemented by nuclear and will be the backbone of EU power production by 2050.

“However the future for nuclear technology is short. The reality today in most markets is a reality of slow but steady decline in market share” she observed.

It is estimated that nuclear currently accounts for 9% of the global electricity mix yet in 1988 it accounted for 18% of the electricity mix. Nuclear is the largest electricity source in the European Union despite countries like Germany decision to shut their nuclear power plants over safety and environmental concerns.

Ursula von der Leyen said the future of nuclear will depend on the industry’s ability to deliver on time and on budget. “Far too often the realization of nuclear plants has resulted in additional costs and overruns,”   The IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said the summit will provide an opportunity for leaders to support each other as they create the conditions for new nuclear reactors.  “To progress, we need a level financial playing field. That means nuclear energy getting the kind of support already given to other energy sources, whether nationally or by international institutions, such as development banks.”

He said it is interesting to note that it took seventy years of commercial exploitation of nuclear energy to have a first summit at the level of world leaders. 

“And it is logical that it happens now. It could have happened before. But now, it is not a good thing to happen. It is necessary that it is happening,” Grossi said.

He said there is a convergence of factors that global leaders are dealing with every day. These he said included an energy crisis, an energy dilemma, and the undeniable tensions around the world.

“And we know for a fact that nuclear energy today is not as a utopian idea is providing a quarter or 25% of clean energy that is produced in the world and here in Europe, half of it,” remarked Grossi.

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He said the IAEA will play its role to ensure that whenever nuclear energy is used, it will be done in a safe, secure, and non-proliferation way.

The IAEA’s new annual nuclear power outlook high case projection predicts installed nuclear capacity will more than double to 890 gigawatts by 2050, compared to 369 gigawatts today. This represents an almost 25% increase from the Agency’s prediction in 2020, with its projections revised up for a third consecutive year.   

The Summit will showcase the IAEA’s Atom4NetZero initiative, which provides decision-makers with comprehensive, data-driven energy scenario modeling that also includes the full potential of nuclear power in contributing to net zero emissions.