Statements of the Deputy Directors General
20 November 2000 | The Hague, Netherlands
Statement to the Sixth Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention Climate Change (UNFCCC)
by Mr. David Waller
IAEA Deputy Director General
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I carry a simple message on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In your deliberations on climate change, we ask that you consider nuclear power in exactly that context - that is, in terms of its impact on future climate change.
The membership of the IAEA consists of 130 countries, nearly all of which are parties to the UNFCCC. Our mandate contains three fundamental objectives: to help ensure nuclear safety worldwide; to help prevent nuclear weapons proliferation; and to enhance the contribution of nuclear technologies towards meeting, in a sustainable manner, the needs of Member States - not only with regard to nuclear power, but also in areas ranging from agriculture and medicine to hydrology, industry and protection of the environment. Additionally, in 1999 our members - in large part you, the Parties to the Convention - specifically asked that we assist our developing country members to explore and prepare potential Clean Development Mechanism projects based on nuclear power.
Yet, there are currently proposals before you to exclude nuclear power from the CDM, JI, and/or emission trading. Such proposals, however, cannot be based on climate concerns; nuclear is undeniably benign.
The underlying concerns about nuclear power are that it could be unsafe, uneconomic, or associated with weapons production. But we respectfully suggest that negotiations on climate change are not the appropriate forum to deal with any of these concerns. As regards safety, the Convention on Nuclear Safety provides an effective international mechanism for review. Moreover, the conventional wisdom among technical experts is that most reactors are safe - the remainder are being either upgraded or phased out - and that the means exist for dealing safely with waste. Regarding costs, it is investors who are best equipped to forecast what will be economically attractive in 2010. And, as concerns proliferation, there is in place the robust, near-universal, indefinitely extended Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the growing adherence to the Additional Protocol, which further strengthens the safeguards agreements under this Treaty. Finally, it should be noted that nuclear power is an evolving technology and work is currently under way on the development of new generation reactors which are inherently safe, proliferation resistant and more economically competitive.
Reducing future greenhouse gas emissions is the issue before you. With continuing population and economic growth, and increasing needs in the developing world, substantially greater energy demand is a given. Nuclear power is today a significant contributor to both the world’s energy supply and greenhouse gas abatement. More specifically, it currently produces 16% of the world’s electricity, and, in doing so, avoids 8% in GHG emissions which would otherwise result. That amounts to approximately 600 million tonnes less of carbon annually, about the same as is avoided by hydropower. One clear reason President Chirac could state this morning that France’s per capita GHG emissions are "very much lower than those of other leading industrialized countries" is his nation’s advanced nuclear power programme. Moreover, nuclear power has the potential for much greater capacity - without adding GHG emissions.
At this juncture, the exclusion of any technology with clear climate benefits can only limit options, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness. The best chance for sustainable development - that is, for meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs - lies in allowing those future generations to make their own decisions about energy supply options, and allowing these options to compete on a level playing field.