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Davos 2024: Nuclear Technologies for Climate and Cancer Highlighted


IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaking about the clean energy transition at the World Economic Forum in Davos, with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Microsoft founder Bill Gates (left to right). (Photo: M. Singelee/IAEA)

The World Economic Forum in Davos this week heard how nuclear technology is vital in a future clean energy mix, from IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and other energy experts. 

The annual forum attracts thought leaders from around the world to discuss pressing global issues, and this year nuclear technology for the clean energy transition and for cancer care were high on the agenda, with multiple events, lunch sessions and meetings. 

The first such session on 16 January 2024, was on the topic of new nuclear technologies, covering nuclear energy developments and the environments needed to ensure their uptake. This lunch conversation was chaired by Mr Grossi and was the Forum’s launch into nuclear as it broadens its energy programme. 

Presentations looked at the current and future roles of nuclear power in the energy mix, and the commercial possibilities being unlocked by Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and fusion technology.

Later that evening, the Director General took part in a high-level reception with Microsoft founder and nuclear energy advocate Bill Gates and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on ‘Clean Tech Innovation on the Road to Net Zero’. 

Prime Minister De Croo highlighted Belgium’s ongoing commitment to achieving a clean energy transition and Bill Gates emphasized its ability to support other green energy technologies. 

“We really need to get going with nuclear mixing with renewables,” Mr Gates said. “Nuclear is complementary to a lot more renewables, maybe fifty to ninety per cent of renewables." 

The Director General discussed how important global inclusivity and non-proliferation are to this ongoing effort and introduced the first ever Nuclear Energy Summit, which will be held in Brussels in March. 

“It’s incredible that after seventy years of the commercial operation of nuclear power there was never an opportunity for world leaders to get together like this on this topic. In Brussels we will discuss the possibilities, discuss the issue of finance, and talk about addressing this global challenge of climate change.” 

The Director General is also attending other meetings to discuss the opportunities offered by low-carbon nuclear power, including a dialogue between engineering experts and senior policy-makers, and a session on how the Middle East and North Africa can best decarbonise their energy sectors. 

As well as engaging on nuclear power, the IAEA Director General also assembled a key event on the importance of nuclear technologies in cancer care, and ways to increase access to these therapies in low- and middle-income countries. 

The ‘affiliate session’ on access to radiotherapy [watch recording of livestream on YouTube] was held by the IAEA on Wednesday in conjunction with the Union for International Cancer Control and The Lancet Oncology journal. 

UICC’s Dr Cary Adams, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, Maggie Rarieya from Amref Health Africa, and David Collingridge from The Lancet Oncology after the session on Rays of Hope at WEF 2024 in Davos (from left to right). (Photo: D. Candano Laris/IAEA) 

The goal of the session was to focus the attention of leaders at Davos to the disproportionate and growing cancer burden in these countries, and to rally experts and resources on this solvable challenge. 

“Rays of Hope is not reinventing the wheel,” the Director General explained. “There was a lot already being done. But it was too disparate and therefore not having enough impact. You had political commitment and the private sector trying to help, but in my opinion what was lacking was this integration of it all, the integration of the experts, the private sector, the governments and international organisations and this is what Rays of Hope is trying to do.” 

Dr. Cary Adams from the Union for International Cancer Control agreed. “[This] cannot be resolved by one organization, it’s got to work in partnership. 

“Collectively we have to work together to resolve the challenges we face. This is a complex problem which unfortunately demands complexity in the solution. We’ve got to address some big international barriers …and that demands collaboration.” 

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