I attended the American Nuclear Society (ANS)’s annual meeting in San Antonio earlier this month, and got to listen in on many topics, from waste management and decommissioning to new builds around the world, and how the industry needs to keep the public informed about nuclear and radiation.
It was a bit of a change from a conference I attended the week before in Moscow, Russia, where the focus was on global partnerships and how countries can help each other either establish a nuclear power industry or maintain and improve one. One theme that ran through both shows, however, was that nuclear needs to continue to be a factor in power generation, but also that the world must continue to work together on nuclear.
While countries like China and India can’t seem to find a reactor that they don’t want or need to build, there are many other countries that are just getting started. Vietnam, Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates are just a few countries that come to mind that are establishing a nuclear industry, from forming a regulatory body all the way to gaining government support to build nuclear generating facilities. The countries just getting started were seeking the advice and experience of countries who have been running plants for many years. Not only does it make good business sense, especially when trying to cement a supply chain and financing, it is also a way to learn about safety practices and technologies as nervousness from the 2011 Fukushima accident still permeates the industry.
One thing attendees thought was important was the peer reviews that many power plants and projects undergo in order to be sure that the way they operate facilities are in line with what other countries are safely doing. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) are just two organizations conducting these peer reviews. These reviews help the global nuclear industry ensure that power plants are being run to high safety standards and lessen the possibility of another Fukushima or Chernobyl.
Though there are countries that have decided to cease operating or reduce the number of nuclear power plants, others have decided that nuclear is one of the best low-carbon options for the region in addition to renewables, coal and natural gas. No one source is more important that the other, but in order to keep power plant emissions low, it is necessary to keep nuclear in the mix.