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Grossi, Granholm Launch Preparations for 2022 IAEA International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power


Jennifer Granholm, US Secretary of Energy, and Rafael Mariano Grossi, IAEA Director General, announced the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century to take place in Washington, D.C., next year. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, meeting on the margins of the 65th IAEA General Conference in Vienna, launched preparations today for the fifth IAEA International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century, to be held in Washington, D.C. on 26-28 October 2022.

Mr Grossi and Secretary Granholm discussed a range of issues, including nuclear energy applications as well as nuclear safety, security and safeguards. They said the Conference would be a key area of cooperation as teams from the IAEA and the United States begin working together on the event, which comes as the IAEA has just revised up its projections for the potential future growth of nuclear power for the first time in a decade as the world looks to move away from fossil fuels to fight climate change.

“I’d like to thank the United States for offering to host this important IAEA event through the Department of Energy. It comes at a critical time as the world seeks solutions to climate change and sustainable development,” Mr Grossi said. “Nuclear power already contributes a lot, but an enabling environment is needed for its continued operation and further development and deployment, including innovations such as small modular reactors.”

The ministerial conference will provide a forum for ministers, policy makers, senior officials and experts to engage in high-level dialogue on the role of nuclear energy in the transition to clean energy, contributing to sustainable development and mitigating climate change. Participants will discuss and exchange views on key issues related to the development and deployment of nuclear energy, including the resilience of the nuclear industry during the COVID-19 global crisis and its contribution to the post-pandemic economic recovery.

“A growing number of countries see nuclear power playing an essential role in contributing to sustainable development and the mitigation of climate change. This conference will come at a key time and with the stakes rising ever higher as the world searches for solutions to these challenges. In a little more than one month, the UN Climate Change Conference will kick off in Glasgow. The Agency will be holding several events at COP26, and I will be personally traveling there to deliver the message that nuclear power is part of the solution to the climate crisis and needs a place at the negotiating table,” Mr Grossi said during the meeting.

“Nuclear is a key technology for Member States as they aim to lower their emissions, grow their economies, and ultimately combat climate change in a truly sustainable way. It’s an incredible honour for the United States to be hosting the 2022 IAEA Nuclear Power Ministerial at such a pivotal time,” said Secretary Granholm. “The US Department of Energy is committed to working with Director General Grossi and the IAEA to ensure a successful conference, and we strongly encourage all countries to send Ministerial-level representatives to join us as we unlock the full potential of nuclear.”

Thirty-two countries operate nuclear power reactors, producing about 10 per cent of the world’s electricity and more than a quarter of all low carbon electricity. But the world’s fleet of 444 power reactors is ageing, and there is uncertainty about replacing them with new plants, particularly in Europe and North America. Some 50 reactors representing about 52.5 gigawatts of electrical capacity are currently under construction, two-thirds of them in Asia.

Meanwhile, around 30 so-called newcomer countries, including several in the developing world, are considering or embarking on nuclear power and working with the IAEA to introduce it in a safe, secure and sustainable manner. Some are looking to new and emerging technologies, such as SMRs and non-electric applications of nuclear energy like hydrogen production, to address rising energy needs, air quality concerns and the security of energy supply.

The ministerial conference, originally scheduled to be held in 2021 but postponed due to the global pandemic, will feature ministerial level participants delivering statements on their national energy strategies and vision for nuclear energy, as well as challenges for introducing, maintaining or expanding nuclear energy.

Panel discussions will cover topical issues including the role of nuclear energy in the transition to net-zero energy systems; fostering policy support and stronger conditions for investment in nuclear energy; the role of government and the need for an appropriate infrastructure for new nuclear programmes; sustaining and improving the performance of the existing reactor fleet in changing economic, climate and political environments; and advanced nuclear technologies.

The IAEA ministerial conference is organized in partnership with the International Energy Agency and in cooperation with the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Previous editions were held in Abu Dhabi (2017), St. Petersburg (2013), Beijing (2009) and Paris (2005).

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