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Opening Address: World Nuclear Fuel Cycle Conference

Speech given by Agneta Rising at the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference held in Prague, 22 April 2015.

Good morning, Dobré ráno. 

I would like to welcome you to the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference co-organized by the Nuclear Energy Institute and the World Nuclear Association. 

We are happy to be here in the beautiful city of Prague. Its name means crossing point or threshold by the rapids

We too are facing turbulent times.   

Agneta Rising WNFC 2015

We are in a period of radical and conflicting energy transitions. As the global population grows and new major economies emerge, the world's consumption of electricity is increasing dramatically. 

This demand is currently being met by an energy mix dominated by fossil fuels, but we are at the start of a process that must transition us to an affordable low carbon energy mix. 

In such an energy landscape the potential for nuclear energy is clear. In the expansive economies of Asia a substantial increase in nuclear electricity supply features strongly in many of their future energy strategies. 

These countries have embraced collaboration with international partners and will present substantial opportunities for the world's nuclear industry. 

But we must not ignore our existing markets elsewhere. 

Currently around three-quarters of global generation capacity is located in Europe and North America, with one quarter located in Asia. But less than one third of reactors under construction are located in Europe and North America, with almost two-thirds in Asia. 

Nuclear energy must play a significant role in generation worldwide to meet our needs for reliable, affordable and clean electricity. 

Nuclear energy is amongst the most cost-effective forms of electricity generation.  Its operating costs are low and predictable.

Operating and fuel costs for nuclear generation are a relatively small component of overall generation costs, meaning that the long-term predictable and affordable nature of nuclear generation will become increasingly attractive. 

And concerns over security of supply and the increases in carbon pricing make the economic attractiveness of nuclear clear. 

But volatility in energy prices is leading investors in deregulated markets to be conservative, to prioritise short-term returns over more environmentally sustainable and economically sound long-term investment. 

It isn't a situation that is affecting just nuclear energy. Currently investment in any major energy infrastructure is challenging in deregulated markets.  But it particularly affects nuclear, because of the initial capital investment required.

A reliable electricity supply is the lifeblood of our economy and our daily lives. But the essential nature of electricity is not acknowledged by a purely deregulated market. Governments must take action to ensure that the lights will stay on decades into the future. 

Electricity brings incredible benefits, but many of our current generation technologies are a source of harmful levels of pollution. Policies are needed to steer us to an environmentally sound energy mix. 

There are some policies already in place, but these are often piecemeal and flawed. The European Emissions Trading Scheme has failed to provide an effective long term price for carbon. There are examples of positive national policies, but too often nuclear energy loses out to renewables for perceived political expediency, despite the complementary benefits from encouraging all forms of low carbon generation. 

These issues are particularly clear in Europe. The Czech Republic has ambitious plans for electricity generation that feature an increasing role for nuclear.  The same challenges are posed here in terms of financing, but nevertheless nuclear generation is projected to increase from around 33% at present to 47% by 2050. Renewables would grow to provide around 30% of electricity consumed, with coal and gas providing a much smaller share than at present. 

This is the kind of transition that we need to see around the world to ensure secure and sustainable electricity supplies. 

But there is an increasing influence on energy policy from the European Union. Europe sees itself as an environmental leader, particularly on climate change. 

Nuclear generation is by far the single largest source of low carbon electricity in Europe; it is close to being the largest single source of generation of any kind, providing around 30% of all electricity consumed. 

Why then does Europe seem to have a 'blind spot' when it comes to the contribution of nuclear energy? It sets targets for renewables share of energy supply; it has targets for energy efficiency. But too often it is silent on nuclear energy. 

Time and again, we are seeing nuclear energy left off the agenda as those countries wanting to see support for nuclear energy are countered by those countries that do not. But stalemate on nuclear isn't an acceptable way forward.

 By all means those countries that choose not to use nuclear can try to meet their environmental targets through other ways, if they can. It is time that Europe recognized that nuclear energy is the low carbon foundation of its energy system and the choice of many of its members.

The challenges facing the nuclear industry in parts of Europe and North America should not distract us from the positive developments being seen elsewhere.

China has restarted approvals for new nuclear construction and remains on track to develop nearly 60 GWe of capacity by the end of this decade and to continue with that development. It will, in the 2020s, become the country with the largest installed nuclear capacity.

China has achieved this progress through collaboration and partnership with the global nuclear industry. Chinese companies are now valued participants in the international nuclear energy market.

And yet, even with this remarkable development, nuclear energy will still only be supplying a fraction of China's electricity needs. The potential for a larger contribution from nuclear energy in China is huge.

India too is showing great progress. India aims to supply a quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy by 2050, and has started on the programme that will deliver that objective. However, it is vital that the right environment is present to encourage the participation of international partners. Much has been done, but there is still work to do.

In South Africa, earlier this yea,r the President confirmed the target of building nearly 10 GWe of new nuclear capacity, with bids sought from the US, China, France, Russia and South Korea. South Africa needs new generation capacity and it needs to reduce its reliance on coal. Nuclear is the right choice.

Returning to Asia, at Barakah, Abu Dhabi, three of the four planned reactors are now under construction. Construction is progressing well.

This is just the first project in a region that looks set to develop its reliance on nuclear energy. Jordan is moving ahead on plans to build two new reactors at Az-Zarqa  that will use water piped from a waste treatment plant for cooling.

In Turkey two new build projects have recently made major progress. Ground has been broken at Akkuyu on four reactors supplied by Rosatom. And in Sinop construction should start soon on four Atmea 1 reactors, supplied by Areva and Mitsubishi.

Looking further ahead, Saudi Arabia plans to have 17 GWe of nuclear capacity by 2040. Many companies in this region are planning to meet their population's needs with a clean energy mix of nuclear and renewables.

Around the world, where attention is focussed on supplying people's needs with clean, affordable and reliable electricity, the potential contribution of nuclear energy is clear.

The World Nuclear Association will not waver from its commitment to making the case for nuclear in the global energy debate.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you may wonder why I have focused so much on electricity generation at a conference that addresses the whole nuclear fuel cycle.  The fact is that the ultimate reason we are here, the reason we do business is, to support the generation of electricity. We are supplying the needs of electricity consumers.

Global electricity demand continues to rise I am convinced that nuclear energy should meet a major part of that demand. But there are many other options competing for that market. 

We need to have support from our politicians, we need a market that treats all technologies fairly and we need to earn the support of the public. 

But we also need to work together to improve our competitiveness, to make nuclear the natural choice. We compete, yes, but we also collaborate, we are partners, and we face common issues that we must address together. 

I look forward to hearing from our speakers and panellists to learn more on the key issues of we are facing and I hope you are too. 

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