ENS HSC Position Paper “Nuclear Scientific Community for Global Sustainable Development”

This interview has been published on NucNet – The Independent Nuclear News Agency, on 20th March 2024.
NucNet is a Brussels-based independent news agency and information network for the global nuclear industry. It operates a 24/7 service reporting nuclear-related news about the operation and construction of nuclear power stations, policies affecting the nuclear industry, nuclear safety and security, emerging nuclear technologies and the safe use of ionising radiation.

European Nuclear Society / Bloc ‘Lagging Behind’ Rest Of World In Key Areas Of Nuclear Research

Europe is lagging behind the rest of the world in key areas of nuclear research and will need at least a decade to catch up with the likes of Russia, China and India if nuclear power is to fulfil its vital role as a low-carbon energy source that can ensure energy security and stable electricity prices, the president of the Brussels-based European Nuclear Society (ENS) told NucNet.

Stefano Monti said the most urgent issue is securing a competent workforce, which is not only about PhDs and post-doctorate level or highly educated researchers, but also nuclear managers, nuclear safety experts and nuclear authorities, technicians and welders.

He said another critical aspect is a well-organised and competitive supply chain, particularly in Europe, where the supply chain has been affected by the limited number of nuclear projects in recent decades.

Europe has partially lost this capability and this is one of the major reasons why recent nuclear realisations have suffered delays and extra costs,” Monti said.

Asked about funding for nuclear research and other nuclear projects, Monti said the world has never been as rich as today and a number of private funds are potentially available, but a pre-condition is to “establish a level playing field for funding and financing nuclear power projects”.

He said:

Governments have a key role in that. It is not by chance that one of the main topics addressed by the Nuclear Energy Summit is just opportunities and challenges to create this enabling condition.

The Nuclear Energy Summit will see world leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday (21 March) to highlight the role of nuclear energy in addressing global challenges such as global warming and energy security while also addressing hurdles that lie in the way of reactor deployment.

Co-chaired by International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Rafael Grossi and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, the summit will be the highest-level meeting to date exclusively focused on the topic of nuclear energy, which the IAEA said is attracting growing interest from many countries because it can both help to cut the consumption of fossil fuels while meeting rising demand for low-carbon dispatchable electricity.

Monti said a number of technology-oriented areas need to be strengthened including advanced nuclear fuels and fuel cycles, AI applications to nuclear power, test and qualification of innovative materials.

He said Europe has excellent skills in materials testing, but there is a dramatic lack of research and material test facilities.

On that, like on the other topics that I have mentioned, we are lagging behind the rest of the world. We will need at least one decade to bring our capabilities at the same level as Russia, China and India.


‘We Need To Scale Up Public And Private Investment’

“If we want to keep the pace with emerging countries, both private industries and public bodies have to scale-up investments, focusing on what is really relevant to enable European industry to be competitive in the international market.

Moti’s comments came as the ENS High Scientific Council said in a position paper that substantial efforts are needed in research, development, and innovation (R&D&I) if nuclear power is to fulfil its vital role.

The council, which advises ENS on nuclear-related developments, said the main areas requiring “intense” research, development and innovation include support for new-built projects, improving the operation of the current fleet, advancing innovative nuclear energy technologies and securing an abundant supply of fuels and advanced fuels.

Other challenges include integrating nuclear facilities with future energy systems, digitalisation and nuclear medicine.

The council called for substantial and targeted funding from both private and public sectors for research projects, recruitment and retention of researchers, and support for education and training of the future workforce.

It also wants to see “open political support” for nuclear energy to encourage the young generation to join the nuclear workforce.

Maintaining, replacing, and extending aging nuclear research facilities is needed so researchers can produce, test and qualify advanced materials for energy, medical and industrial applications. The council called for the construction of new research and material test reactors to support the design and early deployment of innovative nuclear systems.


Authors: Kamen Kraev, David Dalton