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IAEA DG Grossi to World Bank: Global Consensus Calls for Nuclear Expansion, This Needs Financial Support

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi speaks with members of the World Bank Group Executive Board in Washington on 27 June 2024. (Photo D. Candano Laris/IAEA)

To achieve sustainable development and prosperity, the world needs an abundance of clean, reliable and sustainable energy. Now, for the first time in history, a new consensus is urging the accelerated deployment of nuclear energy, along with other low emission technologies, to achieve deep and rapid decarbonization.

Speaking in an exchange with members of the World Bank Group Executive Board in Washington, IAEA Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi, shared the IAEA’s perspective on nuclear energy and said the IAEA stands ready, upon request, to provide technical support to multilateral development banks (MDBs), particularly on nuclear infrastructure development including nuclear safety, security and safeguards.

“From Africa to Asia, countries seeking to add nuclear to their energy mix need technical and financial support. With its technical expertise, the IAEA accompanies them throughout their nuclear journeys, helping them to establish the infrastructure for a safe, secure and sustainable nuclear power programme. But financing remains a hurdle. While the private sector will need to increasingly contribute to financing, multilateral development banks such as the World Bank can advance sustainable development by assessing nuclear project bankability and contributing lending at affordable rates,” Mr Grossi said.

The World Bank and other MDBs currently do not contribute financing to nuclear power new build projects, although some MDBs have provided lending for upgrades to existing nuclear power reactors or their decommissioning. Mr Grossi said that financing nuclear power would better align MDBs with the “new global consensus” forged at last year at COP28 in Dubai, where the world called for accelerating the deployment of nuclear power along with other zero emission energy technologies to achieve deep and rapid decarbonization.

Dozens of countries have also signed on to a pledge made at COP28 to work towards tripling global nuclear power capacity to achieve net zero by 2050. The pledge also called on the World Bank, regional development banks and international financial institutions to include nuclear in their lending. That call was echoed by scores of countries at the first-ever Nuclear Energy Summit organized by the IAEA and Government of Belgium in March.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says nuclear power global capacity, which provides a quarter of the world’s low carbon electricity, must at least double by mid-century to meet climate goals, in line with the IAEA’s 2023 high case nuclear projections. Doubling nuclear capacity by 2050 will require a more than doubling of investments in nuclear power to 100 billion USD annually, the IAEA estimates.

Around 30 so-called newcomer countries are either considering or already embarking on nuclear power to accelerate their development and reduce emissions. In nuclear energy, they see a technology that can provide the backbone of a modern energy system with 24/7 electricity as well applications such as industrial heat needed to cleanly power a modern economy, including by enabling greater deployment of variable solar and wind.

Around two-thirds of the nuclear newcomers are in the developing world, and according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), nuclear power will need to significantly expand in such countries if the world is to have a reasonable chance at meeting climate goals under the Paris Agreement.

But financing such projects there remains a major hurdle. While some newcomers such as Bangladesh and Egypt are already building their first nuclear power plants with the help of government-backed nuclear reactor vendor financing, other countries may need to pursue different financing options. Several newcomers are interested in emerging technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs).

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