Towards a safer nuclear future

Sum Kun Shan The IAEA Director General was in Singapore in January to sign an MOU. This would see Singapore and IAEA provide joint technical assistance to developing countries in areas such as nuclear medicine and safety.

“One country’s accident is every country’s accident,” Yukiya Amano said at a recent public lecture in Singapore. “There is a need for greater transparency and cooperation when it comes to nuclear power.”

The importance of nuclear safety was stressed by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) during EMA’s Distinguished Speaker Programme held on 26 January.

Amano told audiences that the nuclear safety culture has strengthened since the Fukushima Daiichi accident. During his visits to various nuclear plants across the world, he had seen marked improvements in safety measures and a commitment towards the concept of “safety comes first”.

While public confidence in nuclear power remains low, Amano believes the global use of nuclear energy will grow as it is still an important energy option for many countries.

“Nuclear power can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices and mitigate the effects of climate change,” he said. Amano added that nuclear energy can deliver the steady supply of baseload electricity needed to power a modern economy and make it competitive.

Safety First

Amano acknowledged that growth would be at a slower rate than estimated before the Fukushima incident. Public acceptance would be the most difficult aspect to tackle, admitted the Japanese native. He highlighted that transparency in communications, stronger international cooperation, and a robust and effective regulatory framework would be needed to address public concerns. He also added that plant operators, regulators and governments must demonstrate “total and visible commitment” to the concept of “safety first”.

Towards this end, Amano expressed confidence that technology can play a key role in ensuring that nuclear energy would be safer and more efficient in the future.

Involving the international community is also helpful in terms of sharing best practices for nuclear adoption and development. According to Amano, knowledge sharing ensures that countries new to nuclear energy would avoid repeating past mistakes.

Nuclear energy will be one of the topics discussed at the 8th Singapore International Energy Week, which runs from 26-30 October this year. Look out for details at www.siew.sg