Nuclear Power Remains Important Energy Option for Many Countries, IAEA Ministerial Conference Concludes

2013/08
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation

Nuclear power remains an important option for many countries to improve energy security, provide energy for development and fight climate change, the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century concluded today.

Participants also emphasised the importance of nuclear safety in the future growth of nuclear power, noting that nuclear safety has been strengthened worldwide following the March 2011 accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.

The Conference was organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in cooperation with the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation through the State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM.

Sergei Kirienko, Director General of the State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM, said: "The Conference has achieved its main goal: to confirm that nuclear energy is an important part of the world's energy-mix. The innovative character of this type of energy provides us with sustainable development in the future. The closed nuclear fuel cycle and fusion may open for humanity absolutely new horizons.

"The Conference underlined the leading role of the IAEA in promoting the peaceful use of nuclear power and provision of the non-proliferation regime. Russia as a co-founder of the IAEA will always support its efforts to develop and expand safety and security standards all over the world."

"I believe we can look ahead with confidence and optimism to the future of nuclear power in the 21st century," said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. After the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan in March 2011, "effective steps have been taken to make nuclear power plants safer everywhere," he stressed. "Nuclear power will make a significant and growing contribution to sustainable development in the coming decades. The IAEA is committed to ensuring that the expansion of nuclear power takes place in a way which results in maximum safety, reliability and efficiency, and guards against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We will remain a reliable partner for all of our Member States."

"We are far from achieving our environmental goal of limiting increases in average world temperature. Bolder and more innovative efforts are required, and nuclear energy can and must be part of the solution," said OECD Secretary-General Angel GurrĂ­a in a message. "But it is essential to do so in a safe and economically competitive manner. Only thus, will it be possible to take advantage of the long-term, carbon-free security of supply and stable prices that nuclear energy has to offer."

38 ministers were among 500 participants representing 89 countries and 7 international organisations at the Conference, held 27-29 June in St. Petersburg.

The concluding statement said nuclear power, as a stable base-load source of electricity complements other energy sources including renewables, and many states look to it to reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices and mitigate climate change.

At the same time, participants emphasised the need for high levels of nuclear safety. "It is fully recognised that nuclear accidents have no borders and nuclear safety must be robust, effective and transparent," the statement said, adding that global nuclear safety had been strengthened through comprehensive safety reassessments by IAEA Member States, and through additional measures to improve plant safety, regulatory oversight, emergency preparedness and international collaboration.

Participants reaffirmed their commitment to the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety to strengthen the global nuclear safety framework, and emphasised the IAEA's central role in international cooperation on nuclear safety and the peaceful use of nuclear energy, including the generation of electricity. The significant contribution of the OECD/NEA to safety and economic analyses of nuclear power was also recognised.

The statement said participants in the Conference agreed that each country had a responsibility to establish an appropriate and adequate legal framework, and to fulfil its obligations in nuclear security and non-proliferation safeguards as well as nuclear safety. They also recognised the need to work for the establishment of a global nuclear liability regime that addresses the concerns of all States that might be affected by a nuclear accident, with a view to providing appropriate compensation for nuclear damage.

Conference participants further recognised continuous improvements in the evolution of reactor designs over the years. Designs of future reactors are expected to have more advanced safety features. Many participants recognized that fast reactors, closed fuel cycles and re-using of nuclear fuel are some of the key options in enhancing the sustainability of future nuclear systems. Fast reactors can reduce waste streams and improve efficient use of uranium. The Conference discussed contributions to enhancing the sustainability of nuclear power globally, including for example the use of thorium as an alternative fuel.

Technology development is diversifying to meet a wide range of conditions for deployment of new reactor designs, including small and medium sized reactors. These reactors may allow for expanded use of nuclear power - including on smaller grids and in remote settings, as well as for non-electrical applications - and improve the access to nuclear energy, including for developing countries. The Conference reiterated that governments play an important role in fostering research and development and streamlining licensing and regulatory approaches.

Last update: 18 November 2014