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IAEA Director General Commends Chinese Efforts to Reduce "Crushing Domination of Fossil Fuels" in Energy Mix

1997/10

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Dr. Hans Blix, this week highlighted the pressures leading China -- like its near neighbours Japan and the Republic of Korea -- to plan ambitiously for nuclear power to meet a significant share of its rising energy needs.

Speaking at a jointly sponsored IAEA/China Nuclear Corporation Seminar in Beijing on May 23, Dr. Blix said China had adopted a policy to reduce dependence on coal from 70 to 50 percent of electricity generation by the year 2020. Yet coal production there may still have to double in the next 15 years to meet booming electricity and energy demand. This would in turn make the burden on the country's railroad infrastructure even heavier.

At one time, he said, fossil fuels had been regarded as the preferred solution because of their relatively cheap costs. Price remained important, and investment plus operating costs remained crucial. However, many countries including China were becoming increasingly concerned about the environmental, health and other costs involved in energy production, as well as by the fact that reserves of fossil fuels, notably gas and oil, are finite.

Greater efficiency in energy use was of course desirable, and renewable sources of energy would doubtless play an increasing role in the future. However, as the World Energy Council had stated, "with adequate support, the share of renewable energy supplies, currently only 2%, could reach 5 to 8 % of increased world energy supply by 2020." The main choice for energy-hungry economies in the foreseeable future would thus be between the burning of more fossil fuels and nuclear. Just as inevitably, more fossil fuel use would mean more emissions of carbon dioxide with the attendant risk of global warming.

Dr. Blix felt it would be a serious mistake to simply write off the nuclear option for inclusion in future energy mix scenarios: to do so would not only ignore the position of the large number of technologically advanced nations continuing to rely on nuclear power, but also the path chosen by countries confronting bouyant economic growth like China.

Concluding, the Director General expressed his personal conviction that if technologically advanced countries were to increase the nuclear share in their own energy mix, this could contribute to global sustainable development by making increased fossil fuel use in less developed parts of the world rather less problematic from an environmental standpoint.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018

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