The global nuclear industry has learned its lessons from the Fukushima nuclear plant accident in Japan in 2011 and can look to the future with “confidence and optimism,” said the United Nations nuclear energy chief.
In an upbeat address to the first international conference on nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster Yukiya Amano, Director General of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency said that “valuable lessons” have been learned from the tragedy and “effective steps have been taken to make nuclear power plants safer everywhere.”
Ninety eight countries are attending the three-day IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century that opened in St. Petersburg on Thursday. The Indian delegation is led by R. K. Sinha, Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.
Whereas the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986 led to a “period of stagnation” in nuclear industry, after the Fukushima accident construction of new nuclear plants continued “in many countries,” Mr Amano said.
In the next few years five countries — Bangladesh, Jordan, Nigeria, Turkey and Vietnam — will join the nuclear energy club, compared with just one “newcomer” — United Arab Emirates, over the past 27 years.
Up to 90 new nuclear power plants may be added over the next 30 years to 434 reactors in operation today, according to IAEA projections. “Growth could be much higher,” Mr .Amano predicted.
Despite several severe nuclear accidents in the past four decades, the IAEA head asserted that “nuclear power actually has a very good safety record.”
“Nuclear power is a tried and tested technology,” Mr Amano said, noting its advantages over fossil fuels and renewable sources of power, such as uranium resources that can last for thousands of years in fast neutron reactors, low greenhouse gas emissions and steady supply of electricity at stable proices.
At the same time the IAEA chief admitted that safety was “number one challenge” for the nuclear industry.
“We need to ensure that the most robust levels of nuclear safety, based on IAEA safety standards, are in place at every nuclear power plant in the world,” he said.