IAEA at the UN Climate Summit in Egypt

PeopleDiplomats ♦ Published: November 10, 2022; 19:59 ♦ (Vindobona)

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency is also well-represented at the World Climate Change Conference in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Between the energy crisis and climate targets, nuclear energy is regaining importance in several countries, and for the agency, the task is to convince.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi officially opened the first-ever nuclear-related pavilion at COP27. / Picture: © IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency / David Nieto / Flickr Attribution (CC BY 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Eleven years after the Fukushima disaster, which put a severe damper on nuclear energy, this energy is seeing the wind shift again, and many countries, industries and politicians, are becoming more and more committed to nuclear energy. For the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), this means working not only to advance its agenda but also to ensure the safe, peaceful, responsible and forward-looking use of nuclear energy.

The IAEA itself is exhibiting at the World Climate Conference, where, as reported by Vindobona.org, Austria is working to strengthen climate justice.

More and more countries, above all Europe, are being hit by an energy crisis, while at the same time the climate crisis is becoming more and more threatening. Nuclear energy seems to offer a solution to both.

The nuclear energy industry had already gained momentum with the climate argument since nuclear energy does not directly emit CO2. Thus, nuclear energy has increased its share in many scenarios of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN's climate experts.

In September 2021, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is represented in 32 countries and covers 10% of global electricity generation with nuclear power, raised its forecasts for the first time since Fukushima and now assumes a doubling of installed capacity by 2050 in the best-case scenario.

However, IPCC scientists acknowledge that "the future use of nuclear power may be constrained by societal preferences."

IAEA advocates nuclear power at COP27

As part of an event focused on how the nuclear community can combat global warming and address the impacts of climate change, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi officially opened the first nuclear-related pavilion at COP27 - the IAEA-led #Atoms4Climate pavilion.

The IAEA and its #Atoms4Climate COP27 Pavilion at the World Climate Change Conference promote their work around nuclear technology and energy. As part of the workshop, participants learned how the IAEA and its partners are making nuclear energy and nuclear science and technology safe and peaceful for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

A wide range of government and international organization representatives, as well as representatives from industry and civil society, attended the event. As described above, there is great interest in modern nuclear energy, which is seen as a possible solution to the climate crisis.

To demonstrate the possibilities of and provide perspectives on how nuclear technology can help address the pressing climate problems the world faces, the pavilion brings together international organizations, countries, and the nuclear community. “We know that if we take the right decisions; if we avail ourselves of all the existing tools, including nuclear; it will be possible to start mitigating the problem; it will be possible to have a future for the next generations,” Mr. Grossi said.

In commenting on the uniqueness of the presence of a nuclear pavilion at a COP, Grossi said that this is “n itself, a reflection of how things are changing, and how – we hope – finally, we are looking at problems with a realistic perspective of getting them solved.

A key part of Mr. Grossi's presentation was the announcement of the Atoms4NetZero initiative of the International Atomic Energy Agency. This initiative will use the IAEA's analytical tools and expertise to provide countries with assistance in modeling how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced to zero by 2050 by the use of nuclear power.

Atoms4NetZero helps countries assess how nuclear technologies, such as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), can contribute to their long-term strategies to decarbonize electricity and other carbon-intensive sectors.

Several nuclear technologies provide proven and effective tools that can help adapt to climate change impacts and support sustainable development. To facilitate equal access to nuclear science and technology, speakers stressed the importance of cooperation among organizations.

More than 40 events will take place at the #Atoms4Climate pavilion throughout the COP, which will all be live-streamed, showcasing the wide range of contributions nuclear science and technology can make to combat global warming and address climate change impacts.

As the International Energy Agency's Executive Director Fatih Birol declared at the event's beginning: "Nuclear power is making comeback—and in a strong fashion."