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IAEA director general: nuclear power contributes to avoiding greenhouse gas emissions

Nuclear power is playing an important role in the world’s production of clean energy, contributing massively to avoiding greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in many countries and providing innovative solutions that could be very useful to emerging economies.

So said the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi during a panel discussion on electricity security and sustainability at the International Energy Agency’s Clean Energy Transitions Summit.

“Nuclear power has a great deal to contribute as part of clean, resilient, inclusive energy systems, which are of course indispensable drivers of economic development, especially at this hard time of pandemic recession all over the world,” Mr Grossi said. “Nuclear energy is not a promise in terms of low carbon energy, it is already now today contributing massively to a low carbon economy and a green grid by avoiding the equivalent of 55 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over the last 50 years,” he added.

According to the IAEA, nuclear power, which emits no carbon dioxide during operation, currently provides about 10 per cent of the world’s electricity, which amounts to around one-third of all low carbon electricity. Some 54 nuclear power reactors are under construction around the world, two-thirds of them in Asia.

In particular, the World Nuclear Association reports that in 2018 in the European Union, 26 per cent of electricity was from nuclear. There are 109 nuclear power reactors operating in 15 of the 27 EU Member States which account for over one-quarter of the electricity generated in the EU as a whole. Operating or under construction power plants are located mainly in Central and Eastern Europe, notably in Hungary, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Mr Grossi emphasised that nuclear power helps to provide stability to electrical grids, particularly those with high shares of variable renewable sources that depend on sunshine or wind. When it comes to electricity security and sustainability, he said technological innovation is key.

“We believe that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the complexities of the energy markets and the challenges we are facing,” Mr Grossi said. “What we say is that nuclear (power) has indisputably a place at the table. Nuclear energy is at the forefront, at the vanguard, with development of solutions like small and medium-sized reactors, which will be very useful for evolving, emerging economies in the near future.”

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