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IAEA COP23 Side Event: Nuclear Innovation Can Help Achieve Climate Goals


Aliki van Heek, IAEA Unit Head for Energy, Environment, and Economic Analysis discusses the role of nuclear power in achieving decarbonisation of the global energy system. (Photo: D. Shropshire/IAEA)

The goal of limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2˚C requires new climate policies, investment incentives, and a massive adoption of low carbon energy technologies, including nuclear power, participants at an IAEA side event to the Bonn Climate Change Conference heard yesterday.

“As we look at the future of nuclear power and the issue of climate change, it is worth taking a moment to lay out a roadmap showing how nuclear energy innovations can support our Member States with their national climate action plans,” said Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, in his video message to the event.

At the two-week-long 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the IAEA is leading three side events on energy policy, sustainable development, nuclear power and climate change.

“Existing nuclear power plants account for a third of the low carbon energy produced globally,” Chudakov said. “To meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, we need to substantially increase nuclear power capacity by 2050 and beyond.”

Under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, all Parties submit their planned actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Starting from 2020, governments will submit updates to their NDCs every five years to the UNFCCC with increasingly ambitious climate actions to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.

At the side event on ‘Connecting Roadmaps for Innovation in Nuclear Energy to the NDC Timeline’, senior representatives from the industry discussed how advanced nuclear energy technologies can help achieve a low carbon future. Panellists outlined options to incorporate innovative nuclear power technologies into climate action plans and NDC timelines.

An outline of innovations in nuclear energy technologies currently under development and their linkage to NDC updates. (Infographic: IAEA)

“Enhanced accident tolerant fuels are revolutionary concepts of the next generation to be deployed within the next decade,” said Elmar Schweitzer, AREVA’s senior expert on Materials and Thermal-Mechanics.

There are a number of other advanced nuclear power technologies such as high temperature reactors, small modular reactors (SMRs), non-electric nuclear applications and innovative nuclear systems with great potential for enhanced competiveness and sustainability. With this knowledge, Member States may choose to include new nuclear technologies in the updates of their NDCs, participants at the session heard.

Through various activities, the IAEA helps Member States use nuclear technologies to mitigate climate change and achieve other Sustainable Development Goals. These include supporting energy planning and infrastructure development with training and guidance, providing information on innovative nuclear power technologies such as advanced reactor designs and innovative fuels, as well as new applications.

In parallel to the main sessions at COP23, the IAEA serves as the focal point for the United Nations exhibit on Energy, Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. Located in the One UN Exhibit Area, the exhibition showcases the IAEA’s latest publications and integrated approach in nuclear science and technology that can help address climate change.

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