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Low Carbon Future Unlikely without Nuclear Power, Director General Tells World Energy Congress

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano at the 23rd  World Energy Congress in Istanbul, Turkey.  (Photo: C. Brady)

Nuclear power has a great deal to contribute to mitigating climate change, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano told policymakers at the 23rd World Energy Congress in Istanbul yesterday.

In remarks made at the Congress, which discussed policies to address climate change in the midst of the rising demand for energy, Mr Amano said it was very difficult to envisage a low-carbon future, in which global warming is limited to less than 2° centigrade compared to pre-industrial levels, without nuclear power.

“Nuclear power can deliver the steady supply of baseload electricity needed to power a modern economy,” he said. “Nuclear power plants produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants during their operation and have only very low emissions over their entire life cycle.”  

There are 450 nuclear power reactors in operation in 30 countries, providing 11 percent of the world’s total electricity and 30 percent of its low-carbon electricity. Another 60 reactors are under construction. Around 30 countries, many of which are in the developing world, are actively considering introducing nuclear power, Mr Amano said.

Regarding safety concerns associated with nuclear power, Mr Amano stated that the highest importance must be given to safety, and that significant improvements have been made to safety at every nuclear power plant in the world since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011.

While nuclear power plants require a significant upfront investment, Mr Amano pointed to the low operating costs throughout their operating life of between 50 and 60 years.  

It is up to each country to decide whether to introduce nuclear power as part of their climate change mitigation strategy, he said. “The benefits and risks of nuclear power need to be compared honestly and objectively with the benefits and risks of other forms of electricity generation.”  

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