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Planning & Economic Studies Section (PESS):
Capacity Building for Sustainable Energy Development

Summary of the WSSD's final decisions relevant to nuclear energy

(The following summary is excerpted from the IAEA's Nuclear Technology Review 2003 (NTR-2003). To read the full NTR-2003, click here.)

The Summit emphasized the importance of energy as an essential prerequisite for poverty eradication and socio-economic development. This echoes the decisions of the ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-9) in 2001 and contrasts notably with the absence of an energy chapter in Agenda 21.

In the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, energy decisions are contained primarily in paragraph 20 and its 23 subparagraphs. Paragraph 20 begins with an explicit call to governments, as well as relevant regional and international organizations and other relevant stakeholders to implement the recommendations and conclusions of CSD-9.

The 23 subparagraphs of paragraph 20 list a series of actions to promote the widespread availability of clean and affordable energy, including the promotion of renewable energy resources, efficiency improvements, and advanced energy technologies, including cleaner fossil fuel technologies.

With respect to nuclear power, CSD-9's broad conclusions were that countries agreed to disagree on the role of nuclear power in sustainable development, and that "the choice of nuclear energy rests with countries." There are eight recommendations of CSD-9, of which five concern promotion of a high level of nuclear safety and encourage additional research, international co-operation, regulation, and transparency; two recommend additional public education on nuclear issues and the further development of technological solutions for long lived radioactive waste; and the eighth concerns transport.

Since 1992, the IAEA has been active in the follow-up by the UN to Agenda 21, including contributions to "Earth Summit+5" in 1997, the UN's Ad Hoc Open-Ended Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Energy and Sustainable Development, the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Task Force on Energy, CSD-9, the WSSD preparatory committees, and the WSSD itself.

Agenda 21 called on governments and international organizations to develop indicators for sustainable development. As task manager for Agenda 21's Chapter 22, "Safe and environmentally sound management of radioactive wastes", the IAEA developed indicators for radioactive waste. In addition, in 1999, the IAEA initiated a multi-agency study on Indicators for Sustainable Energy Development (ISEDs). At the invitation of the CSD Secretariat, the next phase of the ISED study, which also includes a new co-ordinated research project, was announced at the WSSD as a partnership. Government partners are from Brazil, Cuba, Lithuania, Mexico, the Russian Federation, and Slovakia. Other partners are the OECD IEA, Eurostat, the Economic Commission for Europe, and the Division for Sustainable Development and Statistics Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.The second energy-related partnership announced by the IAEA at the WSSD is "Designing Country Profiles for Sustainable Development." Brazil will be the prototype case study. The partners are the National Reference Center on Biomass and the Graduate School of Engineering at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Paragraph 20 of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation mentions capacity-building four times with reference to energy planning for sustainable development in developing countries.The IAEA's programme on "Analysis for Sustainable Energy Development", seeks to build such capacity in interested Member States by transferring modern planning methods, tools and databases, and by training in establishing and applying models, including their role in policy formulation.The IAEA attaches great importance to this work, which is reflected in the programme's proposed title for the 2004-2005 biennium, "Analysis and Capacity-Building for Sustainable Energy Development."

Paragraph 20 suggests specific actions both for the expansion of energy supply, which is necessary for economic development, and for the reduction of external costs (to the environment, public health, and future generations) of energy use. Reducing external costs requires the ability to measure and analyse them, as well as policies to facilitate their reduction. The latest addition to the IAEA's models and databases available to interested Member States is SIMPACTS (Simplified Approach for Estimating Impacts of Electricity Generation). Designed for developing countries, it requires less data than more sophisticated models, but produces comparable results. It covers all aspects of environmental impact, including damage to health, agriculture, forests and physical infrastructures.

Paragraph 20 calls for increased research on various energy techniques. Through its Department of Nuclear Energy, the IAEA provides continuing international support for research on all nuclear energy technologies. In particular, the new International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) is specifically designed to support the safe, sustainable, economic and proliferation-resistant use of nuclear technology to meet the long-term global energy needs of the twenty-first century.