"Exciting times for nuclear power," IAEA Director General Says
By Miklos Gaspar, IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication
Nuclear power is enjoying a period of revival worldwide, particularly in Asia, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said in Singapore (Jan 2015).
A growing number of countries are considering building nuclear power plants to meet increasing energy needs of their growing economies while decreasing their greenhouse gas emissions, Mr Amano said at Singapore's Energy Market Authority, where he gave a public lecture as part of the agency's Distinguished Visitor Programme.
Nuclear power "can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices, mitigate the effects of climate change, and make economies more competitive," he said. "Nuclear can deliver the steady supply of baseload electricity needed to power a modern economy."
Mr Amano said that in the five years since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan, huge improvements have been made to nuclear safety all over the world, and there has also been significant progress in treating and disposing nuclear waste. Furthermore, he said, "remarkable research is being done on new generations of reactors which will be safer and generate less waste."
Two thirds of the 69 nuclear reactors under construction are in Asia, reflecting the growing economic clout of the continent.
Options for smaller countries
Thanks to recent advances in the research and development of small and medium-sized reactors, smaller countries such as Singapore may be able to take advantage of nuclear power in the future as well, Mr. Amano said. "There is also great potential for smaller countries to cooperate regionally on nuclear power projects," he added, emphasizing that the IAEA does not influence the sovereign decisions of its Member States whether to use nuclear power. The IAEA's role is to advise those countries that choose to include nuclear power in their energy mix, he said.
Mr Amano concluded by thanking Singapore for its cooperation with the IAEA and for its advanced use of nuclear applications. "I wish Singapore continued success in the coming decades in using nuclear science and technology for the health and well-being of its people," he said.
During his three-day visit to the city state, Mr Amano signed the IAEA-Singapore Third Country Training Programme and held talks with Grace Fu Hai Yien, Minister at the Prime Minister's Office, and visited the country's National Cancer Centre.
From Consideration to Construction: The United Arab Emirates' Journey to Nuclear Power
A Country Case Study
By Elisabeth Dyck and Ayhan Evrensel, IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy
Interview with Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, Resident Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the IAEA.
The UAE decided to embark on nuclear power in 2008, becoming in 2012 the first 'newcomer' country in 27 years to start constructing its first reactor. Three of the four reactors planned are already under construction. How did you do it so fast? What are the experiences and challenges faced so far?
Upon taking the decision to embark on a national nuclear power programme, the Government took into consideration all elements required for developing a successful programme. We began by establishing a detailed policy framework that would guide the progress of the programme. The UAE based its approach on international best practices, understood early in the process the required nuclear infrastructure and identified the measures for meeting national targets in time. Strong government commitment, establishing the legal framework and a competent nuclear regulator, as well as adopting an innovative procurement approach all allowed the UAE to advance quickly. Also, strong international cooperation, well defined roles and responsibilities for various national stakeholders, and making the required resources available helped the UAE not only to have a quick start but also sustain the progress.
Building a sustainable national capacity is a challenge for the global nuclear sector and naturally also for the UAE. We have taken aggressive steps in developing the required human resources through an array of programmes, including scholarships, on-the-job trainings, and introducing nuclear education at undergraduate, Masters and PhD levels. These will produce an advanced nuclear cadre to support long-term sustainability objectives.
How is the UAE cooperating with experienced nuclear countries?
Transfer of technology, nuclear material and knowledge can only be done through a robust international nuclear cooperation framework. The UAE has concluded nine bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with responsible and experienced nuclear countries, mainly suppliers and those with good track record in nuclear power development and management. Both government-to-government agreements and industry-to-industry arrangements, early on in the programme, have proven key to the UAE's programme in several aspects, such as safety and security, transfer of technology and human resource development.
What is the involvement of the national industry in the nuclear power project?
Given the opportunities the nuclear programme offers, the national industry response has been quite substantial and its involvement in the project has increased by time.
Along with the UAE's prime contract with its Korean partners, many subcontracts have been concluded with local contractors, particularly in the areas of construction, site preparation and infrastructure development. Emirates Steel, for example, has been a main supplier in the Barakah NPP construction, having so far delivered around 100,000 tons of steel expecting to do more.
The power plant requires particularly robust and high quality materials to meet the nuclear safety and security standards. Hence, the nuclear programme has also enabled some local industries to upgrade their quality standards to meet such "nuclear grade" standards
The UAE has been working closely with the IAEA during the initial phases of the project. Now that the programme is quite advanced, what kind of support does the UAE expect from the IAEA?
The close partnership between the UAE and the IAEA dates back to preliminary consultations before we decided to develop a nuclear programme. From the outset, all steps taken have been in line with the IAEA's Milestones Approach, according to which we are now in the last phase. Additionally, the UAE has concluded and implemented all relevant international agreements under the auspices of the Agency covering all areas of nuclear safety, security, non-proliferation and nuclear liability.
We have been very active in the IAEA's Technical Cooperation (TC) programme, through which we receive important capacity building support. The number of UAE participants in IAEA activities and events has significantly increased to over 600 in 2013. The IAEA has been supporting us in developing the nuclear regulator, its legal framework and training. An Integrated Work Plan with the Agency enabled us to establish a holistic approach of IAEA assistance towards the UAE programme. We have an on-going, agreed programme of IAEA support up to the projected operational date of the NPP.
We are now getting closer to "graduating" from the "nuclear newcomers" category. But we will continue to seek IAEA assistance even when we move into the advanced stages of commissioning and operation. We will continue to be interested in IAEA peer reviews and technical support to ensure safe operation. While support areas may change, IAEA assistance will continue to be valuable.
The UAE will also continue to contribute to the work of the Agency by providing feedback and sharing its experience in implementing the IAEA guidance. This has proven to be of high interest to other member states who are interested in embarking on a new nuclear programme.