Addressing the Global Challenges of Energy Security
The World Nuclear Association annual symposium is taking place this week in London, United Kingdom. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)
The pressing need for development and the desire for more effective system of international security are two urgent challenges facing humanity, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei emphasized today in a speech in London. Dr. ElBaradei was addressing the annual summit of the World Nuclear Association (WNA), where he and the Agency were presented with the WNA Award for "Distinguished Contribution to the Peaceful Worldwide use of Nuclear Technology".
The twin challenges of development and security are intertwined, Dr. ElBaradei said, after first acknowledging and thanking the WNA for the award. "Nearly every aspect of development - from reducing poverty to improving health care - requires reliable access to modern energy service, the Director General said. When these development needs remain unaddressed, the resulting misery often leads to conflict and violence, which in turn affect development efforts and impact on regional and global stability."
The Director General noted that roughly 1.6 billion people still live without access to electricity and 2.4. billion have no access to modern fuels, illustrating the global energy imbalance. In some African countries, per capita electricity consumption is as low as 50 kilowatt-hours per year while in the leading industrialized countries it is 8600 kilowatts-hour per year - about 170 times higher.
He said the G8 Summit in St. Petersburg of July 2006 emphasized the importance of global energy security. In his participation at that summit the Director General emphasized that in his view global energy security means fulfilling the energy needs of all countries and peoples - including those who have no access to modern energy systems. Additionally, factors like accelerated growth in energy consumption and demand, limited supply and competition for resources, and environmental impact also affect global energy security.
Renewed interest in nuclear power in recent years is driven in large part because it offers partial solutions to some of these energy security challenges, Dr. ElBaradei said."I am not suggesting that nuclear power, by itself, is a panacea for global energy security. But if the plans and expressions of intent we are witnessing from many countries come to fruition, nuclear power is likely to have an increasingly significant role in the global energy mix," he added.
He outlined four issues the nuclear community must address to fulfil nuclear´s potential as a source of energy worldwide. These include:
- Guarding relentlessly against the proliferation of nuclear weapons by maintaining a strong , independent organization - the IAEA - with sufficient authority and resources to carry out its mission;
- Sustaining the strong performance of nuclear plants in terms of safety, security and economic operation;
- Innovating and drawing from lessons learned from half a century of operating nuclear plants to design new, safer, innovative, and cost-effective reactors; and
- Focusing on developing new designs and approaches that make nuclear power a safe, reliable, affordable , and practical solution for developing countries that choose the nuclear option.
Dr. ElBaradei said the 1953 Atoms for Peach speech by US President Eisenhower - that paved the way for the creation of the IAEA - declared that a special purpose of atoms for peace would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.
"That vision has yet to be realized," Dr. ElBaradei concluded. "But... the global challenges of security and development are interlinked and that addressing the energy security needs of all countries will be a key to progress on both fronts."
The WNA´s Annual Symposium in London is held to provide a forum for its Members, spotlights the role of the WNA´s worldwide affiliates and serves as a platform to listen to distinguished speakers from throughout the world nuclear industry. The symposium usually provides the occasion for the presentation of one or more WNA Awards for "Distinguished Contribution to the Peaceful Worldwide Use of Nuclear Energy", which this year is awarded to the IAEA and its Director General Mohamed ElBaradei.