Nuclear's future role highlighted at top-level
The future role of nuclear in Europe was one
of the dominant topics at an international conference that took
place in Brussels on 2-3 March. Peter Haug, the ENS’s secretary
general, in his capacity as moderator of the discussion pertaining
to this topic, seized the moment to make the case for nuclear
in his opening remarks. He stated that presentations given at
the conference had shown that nuclear must be part of the solution
to the global energy equation. There was no other energy source
to equal nuclear in terms of economics and emissions avoidance.
The main theme of this 'Energy Choices for Europe
2004' conference was 'Energy and the Wider Europe'. In presentations
and during discussion sessions, the need to use a range of energy
options was stressed by conference speakers and other participants.
Specific sessions covered topics such as security
of energy supply, the opening up of energy markets, energy and
the environment, energy policy in the new Europe and the outlook
for nuclear energy.
The opening keynote speaker was RWE board member
Gert Maichel, who gave a presentation on competitiveness in the
wider European energy markets. During a discussion session, a
question was asked about how Europe's energy sector could meet
future challenges, including the need to construct hundreds of
new power plants over the next couple of decades. Dr Maichel responded
that he was firmly convinced that the sector had the finance,
know-how and the will to make such new investments, if the conditions
The keynote speaker for the session on nuclear
was BNFL chief executive, Mike Parker, who said the industry should
focus on a high level of transparency that would lead to a balanced
debate. He added that he was not ‘for’ any single
energy source but did favour reliable electricity supplies.
Other speakers included prominent Members of
the European Parliament (MEPs), Observer MEPs from the accession
states, senior officials from the European Commission, government
ministers and energy company chiefs. Among the international organisations
represented were the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), the International
Energy Agency (IEA) and the IAEA.
The IAEA's director general, Mohamed ElBaradei,
was the guest speaker at a conference dinner, and he issued a
warning that Europe would soon have to take some crucial decisions
on the energy front.
He said: “In conclusion, let me point out
that the current ‘holding period’ for nuclear power
in Europe will soon come to an end. In the near future, Europe
will be faced with important energy decisions. With an increasing
number of nuclear power plants reaching their original design
lifetimes, Europe will have to decide how to replace its retiring
nuclear power plants."
“Making these decisions will depend, to
some extent, on where you choose to place your emphasis —
for example, on exploring available coal and natural gas resources,
improving the performance and cost of renewables, or placing greater
reliance on imports. What seems clear is that the only baseload
option available today with low carbon emissions comparable to
nuclear power is large hydropower – and sites for hydropower
expansion are somewhat limited in Europe."
“At the end of the day, whether your decisions
involve decommissioning, extending the life of existing reactors,
or building the next generation of European nuclear power plants,
the IAEA will be ready to assist you in your efforts to ensure
a safe and secure energy supply."
The organisers of the conference, Touchstone
International, have announced a much more elaborate event next
year, called Europe Energy Week, featuring exhibitions and workshops
in addition to the main conference. This is due to take place
from Monday 28 February to Friday 4 March 2005.