Word from the President
I recently had the honour of delivering an opening address, in my capacity as President of the Slovak Nuclear Society (SNUS), at the 8th edition of the international conference Secure Energy Supply 2011 (SES 2011). Tibor Mikuš, President of the Slovak Nuclear Forum (SJF), also gave an opening address. The conference agenda revolved around a series of key sessions dedicated to fundamental issues of interest not only to readers of ENS NEWS, but also to the whole European nuclear science community. These included EU energy and climate change policy, nuclear safety (including a debate on the lessons to be learned from the Fukushima accident), nuclear research, education and innovation and the role of new build in ensuring a more secure energy supply.
The importance of this international conference, which took place in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, was reflected by the participation of an impressive array of top-level speakers, that included the President of Slovakia, Ivan Gašparovič; Juraj Miskov, the Slovak Minister of the Economy; Maroš Šefčovič, the Vice-president of European Commission and Commissioner for Inter-institutional Relations and Administration; Peter Mihók, President of the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Deputy President of Eurochambres Brussels; Paolo Ruzzini, Director general of the Slovakian utility, Slovenské Elektrárne; and Miroslav Lipár, Head of the IAEA’s Operational Safety Section. A total of 94 experts from Slovakia and 12 other countries participated in the conference.
With global energy demand rising and recent history having taught us the crucial importance of having a secure, adequate and above all independent supply of energy, the title of the conference was especially appropriate. Indeed, one major area of consensus that emerged from the debate was the recognition that society can only develop sustainably if a secure and reliable supply of electricity - for industry and consumers alike - is assured, and if at the same time the effects of climate change are mitigated. The importance of an integrated EU energy and climate policy was debated at length, with the emphasis on the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies very much to the fore. This approach was enshrined in The EC’s Green Paper of 8 March 2006 entitled: European Strategy for Sustainable, Competitive and Secure Energy. The so-called Agenda 20/20/20 later confirmed the significant role of nuclear energy as a low-carbon technology in the European energy mix and reinforced the importance of this integrated approach to energy and climate change policy. Given the existing level of scientific knowledge, it is obvious that we cannot realistically expect our environmental goals to be met if nuclear energy is replaced in the coming decades. Many readers are involved in front line of research that contributes directly to improving security of supply while combating climate change.
Long before the tragic events that occurred in Fukushima, safety had always been, and will always remain, the nuclear community’s top priority. During the conference the fulfillment of more and more demanding safety standards was underlined as another precondition for the further development of nuclear power. Delegates expressed their confidence that the so-called stress tests (risk assessment tests) that have been carried out at nuclear power plants in the EU member states and neighboring countries in the aftermath of Fukushima will contribute to increasing nuclear safety in Europe - a region where, it must not be forgotten, nuclear energy accounts for around 30 % of in the energy mix.
Slovenské Elektrárne, a member of the Enel group, operates nuclear power plants in the Slovak Republic and confirmed that nuclear safety is not only the highest priority but literally a legal requirement for them. Nowadays, at a time when nuclear power worldwide is being strictly reassessed, I think we can accurately say that the four nuclear units operated in Slovakia and the two units under construction at Mochovce are significantly helping Slovakia to meet its CO2 emissions reduction obligations, while at the same time maintaining the highest of standards when it comes to ensuring nuclear safety and ensuring a reliable supply of electricity for the country’s future sustainable development. The same can be said for many other nuclear installations across Europe.
Such a high level of reliability and safety can only be achieved in the future, however, if an adequate number of highly skilled and experienced experts is available sustain it. The delegates at SES 2011 were unanimous that specific education in this field is an absolute pre-requisite. The whole nuclear community, working side by side with academia, has a responsibility to ensure that there is a constant flow of educated, highly-trained and motivated young people to maintain the nuclear energy sector. Finally, another equally important goal to which the conference undoubtedly contributed is the need to maintain a continuous transparent and open dialogue with all stakeholders on all aspects related to security of supply issue.
President of ENS