IAEA, Rosatom chiefs discuss Ukraine nuclear plant, atomic energy role in climate agenda

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The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Director General (DG) Rafael Grossi and the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom DG Alexey Likhachev met on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP-28) in Dubai, UAE, to discuss issues relating to the nuclear safety and security of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant (NPP) in Ukraine. 

Several meetings have taken place earlier between these two officials regarding the Zaporizhzhya NPP, currently operated by Rosatom, in the context of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.  

“The main emphasis of the talks was placed on the issues related to ensuring nuclear safety and security of the Zaporozhskaya NPP (ZNPP),” a Rosatom release said.  

“In particular, the discussion was focused on the work of the IAEA mission at the plant and the forthcoming regular rotation of the Agency’s experts scheduled for December 5 this year,” the statement said.  

The parties agreed to hold full-scale consultations on the matter during January-February 2024, the statement added.  

At the previous meeting between both sides held in Vienna on the sidelines of the IAEA’s General Conference in September 2023, the Rosatom DG had reiterated Russia’s commitment to continue to create all necessary conditions to ensure an effective IAEA presence at the plant site.  

Likhachev also informed the IAEA Director General about the efforts made by the Russian side to develop the social sphere of Energodar and to establish normal life in the city, which is home to the Zaporizhzhya NPP. 

At the meeting in Dubai this month, the Rosatom DG also confirmed support for the IAEA’s activities to promote the “peaceful atom” as a sustainable energy source and expressed readiness to continue joint work on this track.  

Russia, along with a group of countries, has joined the Statement of the Agency on the role of nuclear energy in the climate agenda, the statement said.  

The “IAEA Statement on Nuclear Power”, supported by some fifty countries at COP-28, acknowledges that all available low-carbon technologies, including nuclear power, should be recognized and actively supported.   

The world needs nuclear power to fight climate change and action should be taken to expand the use of this clean energy source and help build “a low carbon bridge” to the future, the statement said. 

Read out by the IAEA Director General at the COP-28, it was the first time such an IAEA statement was issued, its broad international backing underlining increased global interest in nuclear power to tackle the challenge of rapid global warming. 

“The IAEA and its Member States that are nuclear energy producers and those working with the IAEA to promote the benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear energy acknowledge that all available low emission technologies should be recognized and actively supported,” the statement said. 

“Net zero needs nuclear power. Nuclear power emits no greenhouse gases when it is produced and contributes to energy security and the stability of the power grid, while facilitating the broader uptake of solar and wind power,” it added.  

According to the IAEA, 412 nuclear power reactors are currently operating in 31 countries and make up more than 370 gigawatts of installed capacity, providing almost 10 percent of the world’s total electricity and a quarter of its low-carbon supply.  

Several countries – including Bangladesh, Egypt and Turkey – are building their first nuclear power plants, while many others have also decided to introduce nuclear energy. In addition, existing nuclear power countries, including China, France, India and Sweden, among others, are planning to expand their nuclear programmes. 

“Studies confirm that the goal of global net zero carbon emissions can only be reached by 2050 with swift, sustained and significant investment in nuclear energy,” the statement said. 

It underlined the importance of innovations in the nuclear sector such as small modular reactors that aim to make nuclear power easier to build, more flexible to deploy and more affordable. 

The IAEA says that since the beginning of the 21st century, nuclear power has avoided the release of around 30 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases. It can also contribute to addressing climate change in areas apart from generating electricity, for instance in helping to decarbonise district heating, desalination, industry processes and hydrogen production, the statement noted. 

The IAEA Director General has said that the inclusion of atomic energy at the COP-28 summit demonstrates how far the formerly “taboo” subject had come.  

In a further step to promote the use of nuclear power, leaders from around the world will gather in Brussels in March next year for the first-ever Nuclear Energy Summit, to be hosted jointly by the IAEA and Belgium.