GIF calls for nuclear's inclusion in COP26 discussions

29 October 2021

All realistic options that might contribute to global net-zero must be considered, the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) has said in an open letter to COP26 President Alok Sharma. Nuclear systems and advanced reactors - such as Generation IV systems - can contribute to a net-zero society alongside renewable energies, it says.

With delegates set to convene in Glasgow for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), GIF chair Hideki Kamide of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said in the 25 October letter: "Achieving a global net-zero society in the near future - i.e. during the next 15 to 30 years - is no doubt an incredibly ambitious target to reach. However, it is our responsibility to use all of the possible technologies that we have at hand to realise a global, net-zero society. We must consider all realistic options that might contribute to global net-zero. To consider options from only a limited number of candidate technologies is not a practical attitude for our future."

GIF said that, as "a contributor to global net-zero", it joined the international initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future (NICE Future) and has "further explained with other global net-zero contributors how nuclear energy can contribute to a global net-zero world" in a report entitled Flexible Nuclear Energy for Clean Energy Systems. This report, it notes, concluded that nuclear energy can work in harmony with renewables to expand the use of clean energy sources, and that nuclear energy is operating flexibly today in some forms, and innovation can lead to more pathways for nuclear flexibility.

"Since GIF started its activities as an international technical promoter of the next generation of nuclear reactors in 2001, considerable technical progress has been made in reactor development programmes," the letter says. "Moreover, GIF understands the importance of global net-zero and harmonisation with all net-zero technologies."

Last month, GIF published a report that said nuclear energy, as an asset class, has the potential to report well against a wide range of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) data collection and accounting metrics. The report - titled Nuclear Energy: An ESG Investible Asset Class - was produced by a finance industry taskforce set up in 2020 by GIF's Economic Modelling Work Group. The report describes how nuclear power, as an investible asset, can contribute to ensuring reliability and harmonisation in standards.

"For these reasons, GIF would like to join the global net-zero movement and contribute as a potential technical and financial partner," the letter states.

"Nuclear energy is a sustainable, safe, clean, reliable, flexible and affordable energy source for 24/7, and it has already been developed and is being used throughout the world. In other words, it is an existing option ready for use. Nuclear systems and advanced reactors, such as Generation IV systems, can contribute to this net-zero society, alongside renewable energies, through operational flexibility (load following, heat storage), deployment flexibility (scale, siting) and product flexibility (electricity and non-electric applications, such as process heat, hydrogen production or desalination). GIF is developing these promising technologies in collaboration with future builders in GIF member countries."

GIF said it is "very pleased that all possibilities, including nuclear power, will be on the agenda at COP26 and that realistic solutions will be discussed.

"COP26 can lead our future by taking advantage of human knowledge and wisdom. Again, we must emphasise the importance of considering all of the possibilities available today, without bias and exceptions, when we are deciding our future. Responsible actions for global net-zero will be essential, and the Generation IV International Forum, along with all nuclear promoters, is ready to contribute."

The GIF was initiated by the US Department of Energy in 2000 and formally chartered in mid-2001. It brings together 13 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Japan, Korea, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK and the USA), and Euratom - representing the members of the European Union - to work together to develop the research necessary to test the feasibility and performance of fourth generation nuclear systems, and to make them available for industrial deployment.

The six reactor technologies GIF identified for development are: the gas-cooled fast reactor, the lead-cooled fast reactor, the molten salt reactor, the sodium-cooled fast reactor, the supercritical-water-cooled reactor and the very high-temperature reactor. The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency provides GIF's technical secretariat.

Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy, developer of the IMSR molten salt reactor, said the Canadian company "stands shoulder to shoulder with the Generation IV Forum and Japan Atomic Energy Agency in highlighting to the COP26 organisers the critical role of nuclear energy in achieving our global net-zero emissions goal."

"Nuclear energy is a proven, scalable and reliable carbon-free source," he said. "However, it is Generation IV that can change the whole commercial equation for nuclear power generation for only Generation IV technologies can deliver the step-change increase in the thermal efficiency needed to match the economics of fossil fuel generation."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News