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Nuclear Power Back in Global Spotlight as IAEA Joins 26th World Energy Congress


Mr Grossi and the IAEA took part in several events showcasing the benefits of nuclear power, which in recent months has surged to the top of the global climate and energy agenda, at the 26th World Energy Congress in Rotterdam. (Photo: D. Candano Laris/IAEA)

Nuclear power was back in the global spotlight last week at the 26th World Energy Congress as an IAEA delegation led by Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi highlighted its key role on energy security and climate change.

The world’s longest-running energy event is the flagship event of the World Energy Council, the oldest independent energy organization whose members include governments, corporations, academia and civil society in some 100 countries. This year’s edition of the four-day event, held in the Dutch city of Rotterdam under the slogan “Redesigning Energy for People and Planet”, brought together 70 ministers from 150 countries as well as a broad spectrum of international energy stakeholders.

Mr Grossi and the IAEA took part in several events showcasing the benefits of nuclear power, which in recent months has surged to the top of the global climate and energy agenda. This includes its historic inclusion in the first Global Stocktake under the Paris Agreement at COP28 in Dubai, the pledge towards tripling nuclear capacity by more than 20 countries, the landmark Nuclear Energy Summit last month and the IAEA’s first-of-a-kind collaboration with the Group of 20 this year under the Presidency of Brazil.

“There has been a real change in attitudes towards nuclear power, which was reflected at the first Nuclear Energy Summit organized by the IAEA and Belgium,” Mr Grossi said at the Rotterdam event. “The challenge now is to translate all these ambitions around nuclear energy into concrete actions to deploy at scale.”

While achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require a mix of clean energy technologies, it is increasingly acknowledged that nuclear power must play a critical role as the backbone of decarbonized energy systems. Scaling up its deployment will require major investments as part of a concerted effort to rapidly decarbonize while ensuring energy system reliability and resilience.

In a session that touched on the need for increased investments and the challenges in financing nuclear newbuild projects, Mr Grossi cited the tech sector as a potential new market for advanced nuclear technologies. Electricity consumption from data centres, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cryptocurrencies account for 2% of global electricity consumption but may double by 2026, according to the International Energy Agency.

“The nuclear industry and the IAEA are taking a prospective look at the future of nuclear energy, for example talking to AI and data centre companies that are considering nuclear as a tailor-made solution for their clean firm electricity supply needs,” Mr Grossi said. “Nuclear fit for purpose, in other words.”

The IAEA took an active role in side events at the World Energy Congress. This included a session organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that examined the role of integrated energy planning and financing approaches for clean energy projects Asia and the Pacific, and an event on advanced reactor developments organized by the China National Nuclear Corporation.

The IAEA also organized a side event with the participation of speakers from the Directorate for Nuclear Energy in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy of the Netherlands, the Electric Power Research Institute, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and the World Nuclear Association. The event focused on the opportunities and challenges that the sector will face in the coming years as the push to reach net zero mid-century accelerates.

Amid emerging energy challenges, the Netherlands intends to expand its existing nuclear reactor fleet. “Our commitment to advancing both nuclear and renewable energy highlights our comprehensive approach to achieving environmental sustainability and economic viability,” Martijn Schut, Director for Nuclear Energy at the Netherlands’ Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy, said at the event.

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