The nuclear industry can look ahead with "confidence and optimism" to the future of nuclear power in the 21st century, IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said in a speech to the International Ministerial Conference 'Nuclear Power in the 21st Century' in St Petersburg on 27 June.

Amano said that "notable improvements have been made in global nuclear safety" as a result of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in Japan in March 2011 and that he is convinced "nuclear power will make a significant and growing contribution to sustainable development in the coming decades."

"The IAEA is committed to ensuring that the expansion of nuclear power takes place in a way which results in maximum safety, reliability and efficiency, and guards against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. We will remain a reliable partner for all of our Member States," he said.

The main challenges facing the nuclear industry today include: the number one challenge, safety; but also public confidence; waste disposal and financing for nuclear power projects.

As for the future of nuclear power, many participants recognized fast reactors and closed fuel cycles as key options for enhancing the sustainability of future nuclear systems. Some participants noted the potential for small and medium reactors to allow for the expanded use of nuclear power, including for developing countries.

The 3rd IAEA ministerial conference was held in St. Petersburg from 27-29 June and attended by 500 participants, representing 89 countries and seven international organizations. The conference was organised by the IAEA in cooperation with the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), and hosted by the Government of the Russian Federation through the state atomic energy corporation Rosatom.
Source: Nuclear Engineering International