IAEA’s nuclear energy events in lead up to Pre-COP26 meet on climate change

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The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced that it will organise three webinars in connection with the pre-Conference of Parties (COP)26 climate change meeting to be held in Italy next month. The scheduled Pre-COP26 will be the final ministerial meeting before the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) takes place over October- November this year in Glasgow in the UK.

A release by the global nuclear watchdog said “the IAEA webinars will highlight nuclear power’s vital role in decarbonizing energy production as well as the importance of engaging and empowering young people in the transition to net-zero energy systems.”

The three webinars are part of the All4Climate initiative launched by the COP26 co-host Italy in collaboration with the World Bank, Italy’s Lombardy region, and the city of Milan.

“All4Climate seeks to foster dialogue on the challenges presented by the climate crisis and to help deliver on the goals of the Paris Agreement, to limit global warming this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius”, the IAEA said.

“Given that it provides almost a third of the world’s low-carbon electricity, nuclear power needs to be at the table where energy solutions to the climate crisis are discussed,” said IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. Mikhail Chudakov. “We are very pleased that our events have been included in the official All4Climate calendar. It reflects the continuous work by the IAEA on this important topic, and the events themselves will provide timely input to global discussions about energy and climate change ahead of COP26 in November”, he added.

This year’s Pre-COP26, to be held in Milan between September 30- October 2, will host ministers and delegations from more than 40 countries, representatives of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat and other stakeholders in the fight against climate change and the transition to sustainable development.

As part of the All4Climate initiative, the IAEA’s first webinar on September 2 is on the theme of “Youth Engagement on the Road to Decarbonization”, in which young professionals will exchange perspectives on the role of nuclear power and other clean energy sources in the fight against climate change.

The next virtual event, on September 20, will feature the five finalists of the IAEA Net Zero Challenge, which is a competition of policy recommendations by young professionals for an accelerated transition to net zero emissions. The finalists will present their recommendations and a committee will select the winner of the Challenge, who will be offered an opportunity to attend COP26 in Glasgow.

The third and final webinar on September 28 will be on “Empowering Youth: Attracting the Next Generation of Nuclear Professionals”. “Students, young professionals and senior leaders will use this event to inspire young people to pursue careers in nuclear science and technology, underscoring the unique role that young generations have in mitigating climate change and achieving sustainable development”, the IAEA said.

According to the IAEA, as preparation for COP26, the agency plans to organize several events on the role of nuclear technology in fighting and adapting to climate change.

“At COP26, I will personally reiterate the message that without the substantial contribution of nuclear power to the global energy mix, we will not achieve our climate goals. Nuclear must have a seat at the table when the world’s future energy and climate policies are being discussed”, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi had said in his opening statement to the IAEA Board of Governors in June this year.

At the recently held IAEA 28th General Conference on fusion energy research, the overwhelming consensus among participants was that nuclear fusion can become a promising option to replace fossil fuels as the world’s primary energy source and could have an important role to play in addressing climate change. Given that the potential of nuclear fusion to generate electricity at a commercial scale is still some distance away, participants at this virtually organised IAEA event deliberated on the complexity and challenges of controlling thermonuclear fusion for energy production.

Late last year, the IAEA published a report on small modular reactors (SMRs) as a guide that can help countries identify suitable nuclear reactor designs in their search for reliable and affordable energy sources towards cutting down carbon emissions, and for meeting the goals agreed upon at the UN’s 2015 Paris Conference of Parties (CoP21) on tackling the urgent issue of climate change.

The IAEA report titled “Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments” provides the latest data and information on SMRs around the world, including detailed descriptions of 72 reactors under development or construction in 18 countries. Expanding on an earlier IAEA report on SMRs, this booklet provides annexes on waste management and disposal, as well as a section on very small SMRs called microreactors.

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