Speech: The true meaning of innovation

18 November 2020

Innovation goes beyond gadgets to touch entire energy systems, World Nuclear Association Director General Sama Bilbao y León told delegates at the General Chair’s Special Session of the American Nuclear Society's Winter Meeting yesterday. The session, titled Nuclear Science and Industry: The next transformation, featured a panel of science and industry experts discussing how innovation is transforming both the current fleet of reactors and preparing for a future with advanced reactors, integrated systems, and smarter grids. The following is the text of her speech.

Sama Bilbao y León (Image: World Nuclear Association)

"I would like to start by thanking the American Nuclear Society and the meeting co-chairs Bryan Hanson and Paul Kearns for the opportunity to address you as the brand new Director-General of the World Nuclear Association. This is a special pleasure because, as many of you know, I am and have been for many years a proud active member of the American Nuclear Society.

At its inception, radioactivity and nuclear energy became some of the most impactful innovations, and since then they have made enormous contributions to humanity.

It is now time to take advantage of other more recent innovations to propel nuclear energy to deliver even more benefits, ever-increasing the potential for building a cleaner, more sustainable, and more ambitious tomorrow - be it through new technologies, applications, or perhaps something completely different.

Innovation goes beyond exciting new gadgets and toys - we need to look at the entire system, including market design, financing frameworks, contractual arrangements, and indeed, licensing and regulation. Indeed, innovative approaches to the way we license and regulate nuclear power plants achieve greater harmonisation across the nuclear industry - important work done by for instance WNA’s CORDEL Working Group.

It is crucial we embrace a can do attitude when challenged with the difficulties of incorporating innovation in our industry the “this hasn’t been done before, so it will be too difficult” mindset wherever we find it.

These are some of the key challenges that we face today as an industry, but if we are successful in meeting them, a truly thriving nuclear industry will play a central role in contributing to sustainable development. Nuclear power will continue to deliver limitless clean & affordable energy to all corners of the world, ensuring that every man woman and child has access to the best quality of life, and truly unleash human dreams and ambitions."

Sama Bilbao y León