ENA 2006: Riding the winds of change

When the inaugural European Nuclear Assembly (ENA) took place in November 2004, the first green shoots of the nuclear recovery were just beginning to appear after a long anti-nuclear winter. Twelve months down the road and the revival has gathered momentum. This was clear for all to see at ENA 2006, which took place in Brussels, on 28 & 29 March, under the chairmanship of Mike parker, CEO of BNFL in the UK.

The upbeat mood at the conference reflected the sense of renewed optimism and confidence felt by the European nuclear industry as global energy is now firmly established at the top of the political agenda. The publication of the EU’s Energy Green Paper, the importance given to energy at the recent European Spring Council (Summit), and the fact that security of energy supply and climate change considerations are driving the energy debate in several European countries, combined to make the timing of ENA 2006 especially appropriate.

Among the 220 delegates from 25 countries who attended the conference to discuss the burning nuclear issues of the day, were the EU Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs; ministry officials from France, Bulgaria, Romania and Poland; MEPs, industry leaders, environmentalists and academics.

Another significant factor at this year’s ENA was the presence of so many representatives of the European institutions. Around 25% of all the delegates who attended were from the European Commission and the European Parliament. There were also speakers from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Roland Schenkel, Director General of the European Commission’s the Joint Research Centre JRC). This shows how FORATOM’s extensive lobbying of Europe’s decision-makers is bearing fruit and underlines a subtle change of attitude among administrators and politicians towards the issue of nuclear energy. The European nuclear industry has engaged in an active debate with the European institutions and, fuelled by the need to address the security of supply and climate change problems that preoccupy so many European citizens, Europe’s decision-makers are now more prepared to take onboard what the industry is saying.

But there were also experts from beyond Europe, including: Admiral (retired) Frank L. “Skip” Bowman, President and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute in the US; Richard Garwin, an eminent physicist from the Thomas J. Watson Research Centre in the US who and Elizabeth Dowdeswell, President of the Nuclear Waste Management Organisation of Canada.

The agenda revolved around plenary sessions, a Ministerial Roundtable discussion featuring government officials from Bulgaria, Romania, and Poland and four panel debates devoted to key issues facing governments and industry alike.

Among those issues highlighted during the conference was nuclear new-build in Europe and worldwide, nuclear energy’s contribution to meeting the goals of the EU’s Lisbon Strategy, investing in nuclear and public perceptions as a catalyst for political action.

The press conference on 28 March, which was attended by 19 journalists, featured keynote statements from industry leaders on the subject of nuclear new-build in Europe. In all, 27 media representatives covered the press conference and/or conference – including 3 TV stations. At least twenty interviews were arranged between journalists and ENA 2006 speakers and delegates. This illustrated how the media is more and more plugging into the nuclear debate, reflected the heightened interest of their readers in energy matters. More informed and objective reporting based on the facts can only help to positively influence public acceptance of nuclear energy and make more and more people embrace it as the energy option of choice for the future.

The number of delegates in attendance and the range of expert speakers, senior politicians and highly-qualified scientific experts present to take part in the lively debates underlined that ENA 2006 was an undoubted success. The conference has quickly established itself as the main event on the European nuclear industry’s calendar.

All the speeches and presentations from ENA 2006 are now online on the ENA website (www.ena2006.org), together with audio streaming, photos and press clippings.

Make a note in your diary now – ENA 2008 will take place, in Brussels, on 8 & 9 April 2008!

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