Paris, 20 April 2009

Nuclear energy in the 21st century: safe, clean and affordable

At the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century, which opened today in Beijing, China, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría highlighted that “Clean and affordable energy, including access to safe and secure nuclear power, should be a central element of our efforts… not only for a sustainable economy, but also for the future of our planet.”

According to NEA Director-General Luis E. Echávarri and the latest figures in the Agency's Nuclear Energy Outlook (NEO), nuclear energy capacity is set to increase by as little as 55% and as much as 375% between now and the middle of the century. To achieve this increase, a growing number of reactors will need to be built from now until 2030, followed by an average of 23 to 54 1000 MWe reactors per year (low and high scenarios) between 2030 and 2050. These construction rates are fully compatible with the historical building experience of the 1970s and 1980s.

Both Secretary-General Gurría and Director-General Echávarri are participating in the conference, which has brought together some 300 key players and policy makers in the nuclear energy field from over 70 countries and international organisations. “Nuclear energy has the potential to meet a significant part of future demand while reducing tensions on hydrocarbon markets and alleviating the risk of global climate change,” said Gurría in his keynote speech. The necessary uranium resources are available to fuel this expansion, mechanisms are in place to ensure safety, and radioactive waste management solutions exist and are beginning to take form in several OECD/NEA countries.

As part of its regular programme of work but also its 21 international joint projects, the NEA continually strives to help ensure that nuclear energy remains safe, clean and affordable. Its work as Technical Secretariat of the Multinational Design Evaluation Programme (MDEP) and the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) also contributes to this goal. Under the MDEP, nuclear regulators are aiming to enhance safety worldwide through increased co-operation, aiming in particular at improving the efficiency and the effectiveness of the design review process and at achieving greater convergence of regulatory practices. The GIF is looking to develop Generation IV reactors with improved sustainability, economics, safety and reliability, proliferation resistance and physical protection.

The International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century, organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and co-sponsored by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), is being hosted by the Government of the People's Republic of China in Beijing on 20-22 April 2009.

Related links

Keynote speech by Angel Gurría, OECD Secretary-General, at the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century

IAEA website on the International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century

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NEA membership consists of 33 countries. The mission of the NEA is to assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co‑operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally sound and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It strives to provide authoritative assessments and to forge common understandings on key issues as input to government decisions on nuclear energy policy and to broader OECD analyses in areas such as energy and the sustainable development of low‑carbon economies.