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Scientific Forum Opens with Session on Nuclear Energy

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Gareth Evans addressing delegates at the Scientific Forum. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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The Scientific Forum opened today with a session dedicated to the future of nuclear energy. A wide array of issues relating to nuclear power, such as technology transfer, project financing and fuel cycle issues, including the management of spent fuel and waste, were addressed by an international panel of eight experts. The overall theme emerging from the session was that a drive in international cooperation projects is currently under way within the world´s nuclear sector. This is the 10th edition of the Scientific Forum, which was first held during the 1998 General Conference.

In a statement officially opening the forum, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei described the event as one of the main features of the Agency’s General Conference. "With the Scientific Forum we are turning our vision to the future," he remarked.

In the following statement, Gareth Evans, Chairman of the Scientific Forum, said that he hoped the two-day event would address technically complex policy issues in terms that can be clearly understood and debated by policy-makers and the public alike. Mr. Evans also said he was looking forward to having some conclusions and recommendations to report back to the main Conference which are ´just a little bit meaty, and a little bit juicy´. "Let´s try in these sessions to not just observe and analyse the world, but to see what we can do to make it a little bit better," he said.

Luis Echávarri, OECD Nuclear Energy Agency Director General, outlined the world´s energy outlook for the next 25 years: with electricity demand predicted to double to 34TWh (103) by 2030, nuclear energy can play a significant role in energy supply during the 21st century. While challenges remain in areas such as policy issues and infrastructure and financing, Echávarri said that Research and Development (R&D) and international cooperation can prove to be crucial factors in enhancing the effectiveness of national efforts. [Listen to audio].

Nikolai Spasskiy, Deputy Head of Rosatom, illustrated the latest developments in Russia´s International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) due to be created in Angrsk. "On 5 September, a legal entity for the IUEC was officially registered. The IUEC is now a living creature with a skeleton; what it needs is the flesh around it," he colourfully said. Mr. Spasskiy said that despite the fact that the Russian Government will retain a controlling share in the project, it remains committed to make this a truly international project. [Listen to audio].

Sun Qin, Chairman of China´s Atomic Commission, described the country´s plans to expand its nuclear capacity, saying that the target is to install 40GWe of capacity and construct another 18GWe of capacity by 2020. "Nuclear power is an important component of China’s energy plan," he commented.

Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of India´s Atomic Energy Commission, described nuclear energy as an ´inevitable option for sustainable development´ and said that Fast Breeder Reactors (FBRs) are needed to maximise the use of nuclear resources. However, he warned that a reformation of global thinking is necessary. "We cannot put the world´s future security at risk because we cannot solve today´s security risks," he stressed.

Khaled Toukan, Jordan´s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said that nuclear power offers an insurance to the uncertainty of energy supply and increasing costs even to a fossil fuel-rich region such as the Middle East – though he was keen to highlight the fact that not all Middle Eastern countries can rely on the same energy resources. However, high investment costs, human resources and the international and regional political climate remain a barrier to the development of nuclear power in the region.

Jukka Laaksonen, Director General of STUK, explained how, to date, the ultimate responsibility for managing the residues of nuclear remains with waste producing countries. Dennis Spurgeon, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy for the US Department of Energy, gave an overview of the major trends in technological innovation, R&D for the next 25 years, expounding on international cooperative projects such as the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). [Listen to audio].

Finally, Kaname Ikeda, Nominee Director General of the ITER Organisation, explained how most of the ITER components will be procured and fabricated through in kind contributions, demanding a very high level of international cooperation.

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