Nuclear technology as an important element towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This has been the theme of the international ministerial conference on nuclear technology held at the IAEA in Vienna, where more than 100 countries, presented their activities and projects in the area of nuclear technologies. Major issues focused on the use of nuclear technologies for providing clean energy, treating disease, sterilising insects and preserving food and water. The area of nuclear medicine remains an important element of nuclear technology both in the developed and the developing world. Technologies include early cancer diagnostics which enabled reducing mortality in many countries around the world. The irradiation of food and insects has been a major technology in use in Latin America and Africa. For instance, the irradiation of mosquitos to fight the Zika virus, and for urban waste management. HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presented the first plenary address in which she highlighted the importance of uniting global efforts to preserve marine life.
“Climate change is making the future diffcult to predict. Therefore, we need to be extremely careful with the one and only planet we have at our disposal”
HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden
Nuclear Energy, Environment, and Climate Change
There has been a global consensus among countries that nuclear technology is an important element in the socio-economic development agenda. While the developed countries continue to innovate new reactor technologies, many countries highlighted their initiative in introducing nuclear power into their energy mix to meet rising demand for electricity while mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The transfer of nuclear technology for power purposes is moving even to less developed countries including many African countries such as Kenya and Sudan, and Nicaragua. Kenya plans to achieve universal access to energy by 2020, while Nicaragua is considering nuclear energy to enable access to electricity in rural areas while diversifying its energy mix. Pakistan is also increasing the share of nuclear energy to 10% of its total energy mix, while Small and Medium Size Reactors were highlighted as a strategic power option for countries in the Middle East. It was expressed that there remains a need for support from international organisations for newcomer countries combined with competitive financing conditions and new financing mechanisms. Countries with existing nuclear power plants are also increasing their generation capacity including China, Armenia and Pakistan. Russia is developing the world’s first floating nuclear thermal power plant, 4th generation nuclear reactors, and high-power research reactors. The challenge of a sustainable nuclear technology, however, remains the development of a closed nuclear fuel cycle which requires uniting global efforts in research and development.
Combining nuclear energy with renewables as a key approach in energy transition, while integrating nuclear technology in Sustainable Development
It was pointed out that there is a need for support from international financing organisations to adopt nuclear energy as an option for CO2 mitigation. Combining nuclear with renewables has been suggested as an important direction forward in the way of achieving carbon reduction targets. Argentina, which is holding the G20 summit this year, has led an initiative to host a G20 Nuclear Security Summit as stated by its Ambassador Rafael Grossi, who also highlighted many initiatives some of which were introduced for the first time in Latin America including the first prototype research reactor for nuclear medicine.
The adoption of nuclear energy to reduce carbon emissions comes often as a result of the increase in unexpected natural phenomena has been raised as a major concern among countries considering nuclear as a major option to mitigate the impact of climate change. Lesotho, Cuba, Philippines, Pakistan, expressed rising concerns of unexpected natural events including droughts, cyclones, floods, and other adverse effects of climate change which requires countries to act upon the effect of climate change and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. African countries also expressed many concerns about climate change impact on their agricultural resources. Djibouti is working with eastern African nations to establish an observatory base for climate change to collect samples for nuclear analysis enabling detection and mitigation of climate impact.
A Ministerial Declaration
A major cornerstone of this ministerial conference is the adoption of the global ministerial declaration by the participating countries to confirm their commitment to integrating nuclear technology as a key element in achieving their sustainable development agenda. As a part of this declaration, many countries have announced financial supports including Japan which has allocated Euro1.2 million to the IAEA technical cooperation programmes in order to enable technology transfer and access to state-of-the-art nuclear technologies for the IAEA member states.
The declaration will reflect pursuing a global joint work to bridge the gap and further advancement among the IAEA member states to the 2030 sustainable development agenda. An especially interesting issue in this conference is relating nuclear technology to the Paris Agreement which reflects a change in policy thinking and perception about nuclear energy. In a statement made to UCERGY Analysts, Vice President Epsy Campbell Barr of Costa Rica affirmed that “this declaration will be stronger, it will focus on integrating nuclear as a key element in achieving the UN sustainable development goals such as the Paris Agreement”. The ministerial declaration will be released which represents the commitment of all IAEA member states.