NPT signatories must enable a renewed nuclear vision, says Bilbao y León: Regulation & Safety
May 07, 2021
US President Dwight Eisenhower’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on Atoms for Peace in 1953 is still relevant today as the world today faces the existential threat of climate change, the Director General of the World Nuclear Association, Sama Bilbao y León, to delegates at a preparatory event for the Tenth NPT Review Conference which should take place in August. Speaking at the event – titled Industry and peaceful applications of nuclear technology – Bilbao y León called on all signatories of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which entered into force in 1970, to support the expansion of civilian nuclear energy.
“The non-proliferation treaty has been incredibly successful militarily, but I think it is still necessary to overcome the irrational fear of radiation, which unfortunately limits the development of nuclear technology,” Bilbao y León said. .
“I want to assure all of you that the global nuclear industry collectively supports the NPT as a cornerstone of the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. Nuclear energy today and for more than 80 years has safely contributed to the well-being of people around the world. , and its use can be further expanded to meet global energy demand, meet the very ambitious climate goals we set for ourselves in the Paris Agreement, and, just as important, help the world meet the Sustainable Development Goals of ‘UN.”
UN agencies and NPT signatories have a key role in the transition to clean energy, she said, and called on them to recognize that nuclear power, as well as other low-emission technologies of carbon, is “essential to the good management of the environment of our planet and to mitigate the threat of global warming”.
“We call on you to continue your efforts to develop the potential of nuclear technology in harmony with the economic well-being of the world through an integrated approach by the various United Nations agencies and other multilateral organizations, including international banks. of development. We call on you to work towards the harmonization of regulatory frameworks to facilitate the “internationalization” of nuclear technology. We call on you to facilitate the transfer of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes to all countries as they develop a robust and streamlined regulatory regime that, of course, meets the objectives of the NPT while ensuring the safety and security of operations. commercial and social.
A new crossroads
The NPT was conceived when the world was at a crossroads, she said.
“We had two atomic colossi looking at each other suspiciously, and there were prospects that several other countries would develop atomic weapons. Then, with immense vision, General Eisenhower proposed steps in his Atoms for Peace speech. , which would ultimately lead to the creation of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the NPT. The vision was to harness the atom, not to sow fear, but to improve the economic well-being of the world. his own words, “To hasten the day when fear of the atom begins to wipe out the peoples and governments of East and West from minds.”
The enormity and urgency of the challenge of climate change is “mind-boggling,” she said, noting that the share of electricity generation from fossil fuels has hardly changed since 2000. In fact, the generation of electricity from fossil fuels in 2019 was greater than the total generation in 2020.
“Today, humanity is also at a crossroads as we face the enormity and urgency of the challenge of climate change. Despite significant investments in renewable energy sources, the share of low-carbon electricity produced today is essentially the same as it was 20 years ago. At present, country commitments and policies do not really lead us to the 1.5 degree or less scenario recommended by the IPCC. And the problem will only get worse as less developed countries continue to increase their demand for energy in an effort to achieve the same standard of living as developed countries for all of their citizens. This fall, the United Nations General Assembly will discuss energy for the first time in 40 years. And this year, too, nations will gather in Glasgow for the 26th Conference of the Parties on climate change in order to consider more ambitious decarbonisation targets and to develop realistic approaches that will allow us to achieve them. So once again, a bold vision is called for. “
Nuclear power must grow rapidly if the world is to meet energy demand, meet climate goals and meet the UN’s sustainable development goals, she said, noting that the “halfway point” scenario ”Of the IPCC’s special report at 1.5 degrees sees nuclear power grow by six-fold by 2050, with 2243 GWe of capacity representing 25% of electricity production.
“The Tenth NPT Review Conference offers us a major opportunity to help face this existential crisis. Why? Because the NPT is a paradigm whereby countries that renounce the development of nuclear weapons programs and honor NPT commitments should have access to all the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear technology. And nuclear power is the most proven and scalable tool we have today to meet the world’s growing energy needs without contributing to climate change. “
Nuclear power is the largest source of low-carbon electricity in developed countries, she said, and nuclear technologies bring “unparalleled benefits.”
“First of all, they have been proven to work. Nuclear power plants have been operating safely, reliably and economically all over the world for over 60 years, and they have done so without greenhouse gas emissions or emissions. other contaminants, and they have carefully managed the very low volumes of used nuclear fuel and radioactive waste produced since the deployment of nuclear power began.
“Nuclear power plants produce reliable, ‘always on’ production which is indispensable for today’s society, for all kinds of essential services, such as hospitals, industry and for example this Internet that we have used a lot. during this terrible pandemic. Nuclear power plants can also operate flexibly, supporting the deployment of intermittent renewable power generation and ensuring a robust and resilient energy system. Nuclear power is also a means of cost-effective climate change mitigation.
Expanding the operation of the current fleet of nuclear reactors is the cheapest form of additional low-carbon production, she said, and the new reactors are competitive with other low-carbon sources of production. carbon emission, especially when the total costs of the entire system and the value of avoided emissions are included in the cost of production.
And nuclear energy can go “well beyond” electricity.
“As the only low-carbon source capable of producing electricity and heat, nuclear energy could play an important role in decarbonizing sectors that are difficult to reduce. Nuclear reactors could be used to produce process heat for industrial applications, district heating to condition buildings, water by desalination, or carbonless hydrogen and low carbon synthetic fuels that can help. to decarbonize the transport sector, ”she said.
And nuclear power contributes to almost all of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“The deployment of nuclear energy effectively promotes national and local economic growth. It provides long-term, highly skilled jobs and has significant multiplier effects in many sectors of the economy. For developing countries, nuclear energy projects can be a catalyst for development while helping to limit dependence on fossil fuels, ”she said.
“Affordable 24/7 zero-carbon nuclear power contributes to most of the SDGs and can be essential in meeting the aspirations of people in all countries. Better education, access to stable jobs, nutritious food, better health care and access to culture and recreation. activities that really lead to a better quality of life. In particular, this increased access to affordable and reliable energy helps improve labor empowerment and reduce the abundance of menial jobs that disproportionately affect women. More free time and access to education will give women everywhere equal opportunities around the world to contribute to society at all levels. “
Enthusiasm for innovation
The global nuclear energy industry is innovating, as it has done throughout its 60-year history, she said. There are 54 nuclear reactors under construction around the world and there is “a lot of enthusiasm” for new technologies, such as small modular reactors, micro-reactors and advanced reactors.
“These technologies may not only be more affordable, but they are also highly customizable for many specialist markets and applications, opening up new opportunities for integrating distributable nuclear power into the increasingly distributed and highly coupled energy systems of the world. future. It is absolutely essential to accelerate the deployment of nuclear power if we want to meet global energy demand, if we want to achieve the very ambitious climate objectives that we have set ourselves and to help the world, the all world, to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Government leadership and support is needed to instill confidence in nuclear technology and to spur long-term planning and private investment in these technologies. “
Examples of recent innovations that she highlighted are: the APR-1400 at Shin Kori Unit 4 in South Korea; the APR-1400 at Unit 1 in Barakah, United Arab Emirates; the Hualong One of Fuqing Unit 5 in China; the KLT-40S for Akademik Lomonosov in Russia; VVER V-491 at Unit 1 in Ostrovets, Belarus; the 77 MWe PWR under design license from NuScale in the United States; the 2×110 MWe HTR-PM being commissioned in China; Terrestrial Energy’s 190 MWe IMSR which is under development in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States; GE Hitachi’s BWRX300 which is under review in the United States; and the 1.5 MWe Heatpipe FNR Aurora / Oklo which is under review in the United States.
A recording of the April 30 event is here.
Research and writing by World Nuclear News