Speech: Established nuclear countries must lead sustainability drive

10 November 2020

The world needs countries, such as Brazil, to step up and lead the way by expanding their nuclear capacity to help contribute to a sustainable energy future, said Agneta Rising, former director general of World Nuclear Association. She was speaking ahead of the World Nuclear University Short Course World Nuclear Industry Today to be held online in Brazil next week.

Agneta Rising speaking at the World Nuclear Spotlight Brazil in April 2019 (Image: World Nuclear Association)

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Brazilian Association for the Development of Nuclear Activities (ABDAN) and its members for the work they have done to promote nuclear energy in Brazil, as well as for their cooperation with the World Nuclear Association throughout the years.

It feels like it was only yesterday that we met in Rio de Janeiro for the World Nuclear Spotlight Brazil, when the global nuclear industry and Brazilian decision-makers came together to discuss the great potential for nuclear developments in Brazil.

The World Nuclear University plays a key role in educating the future leaders of the nuclear industry and, as its President, I am delighted that we will be hosting the WNU Short Course World Nuclear Industry Today in Brazil next week.

The world needs countries, such as Brazil, with a long history of, and great expertise in, nuclear energy, to step up and lead the way by expanding their nuclear capacity to help contribute to a sustainable energy future.

As things are now, nuclear is respected, but not wanted. Nuclear power will continue to play a key role in bringing affordable electricity around the world, and is an essential part of the climate change solution. However, nuclear is still not allowed to be part of the conversation in some places, even if the IEA, several UN bodies and the OECD are more urgently emphasising its importance.

However, the picture is changing, thanks in large part to the vision that the World Nuclear Association's Harmony goal provides - that is, 25% of global electricity coming from nuclear power before 2050. People are coming to the nuclear family, wanting nuclear energy to meet their needs and to power their dreams and aspirations. We need to change the image of the industry - both outside and inside the industry itself - and so I am especially proud of the outcome of the Harmony goal, which has been seized upon by the nuclear industry as well as being a reference for policymakers.

Over the last few years, there have been more and more discussions around cost, cost and cost, and despite the fact that nuclear is the most cost-effective energy source for society.

However, we need to ask ourselves - if we build short-term solutions, like solar panels or wind turbines, which are not effective for the societal system, what will happen to the system itself? They are small scale and cannot resolve the large-scale needs we have.

Solar and wind are by nature very dispersed energy forms, which makes it more costly to harvest the energy from them and it cannot be stored (easily). Hydropower is clearly a much more efficient energy source, as the raindrops are concentrated into streams and rivers by nature.

Being the most concentrated energy form, nuclear is the most intelligent way to generate electricity and other services. We achieve huge output from nuclear, with very little input. Renewable energy is like a bicycle, it can take you places, and can play a role; however, it also has limitations - it is impossible to build an advanced society based on bicycles.

For that task, you will need nuclear, or to follow the transport metaphor - railways - where you can transport huge amounts, but for a small effort. This is how we build a stronger tomorrow, by ensuring that we use the most efficient, most intelligent, energy systems that are currently available to us.

In many ways, the future of nuclear energy is much brighter than it has been for many years. We are evermore recognised and valued for the unique services that nuclear energy offers humanity. I am convinced that countries like Brazil will have a key role to play, highlighting that economic prosperity and sustainable development can be delivered hand in hand, because we can do this with the help of the atom."

The World Nuclear Industry Today course, organised in association with ABDAN, will be held 17 and 19 November. The programme and registration can be found here: https://ntce.com.br/webinars/wnu-short-course-on-the-world-nuclear-industry-today/