Viewpoint: Pandemic underscores nuclear’s role in sustainable development

02 June 2020

A sustainable energy supply is crucial for ensuring stable economic growth and improving social welfare while at the same time preserving the ecosystems we live in, writes Evgeny Pakermanov, president of Rusatom Overseas, a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom.

Evgeny Pakermanov, president of Rusatom Overseas (Image: Rosatom)

In 2020, the world has encountered a new global challenge that has affected a record number of people - the coronavirus pandemic. In a matter of weeks, it caused the biggest social and economic upheaval in decades. From the very start, a joint effort was required to combat both this life-changing infection and its consequences.

The nuclear industry is largely contributing by sterilising medical tools and protective equipment using radiation technologies and by ensuring a sustainable supply of electricity generated at nuclear power plants. These things are essential for the operation of hospitals, mobile communication networks, and other key components of social infrastructure.

Now that this battle has come to the forefront, we clearly understand that the established patterns of life badly need critical reassessment in terms of future economic development, our attitude towards the planet, and how the use and distribution of resources will affect generations to come.

Long-term sustainable development in all areas of life and business is as important as ever for the overall well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. We recognise that we must adhere to all of the 17 sustainable development goals put forward by the UN five years ago; there is no doubt that the environment and the climate agenda are more relevant than ever.

We at Rosatom have always been mindful of the world’s environmental and social problems, and we are proud to have developed and implemented technologies that now lubricate economic growth, ensure social well-being and mitigate the effects of climate change.

For decades, nuclear power plants have been generating low-carbon electricity, providing about 10% of the world’s electricity supply, facilitating energy security and helping to avoid dozens of gigatonnes of CO2 emissions. Furthermore, the cities and production clusters formed around nuclear power plants provide jobs and infrastructure for local residents.

When implementing projects abroad - we currently operate in 50 countries - we clearly see that electricity shortages and unreliable energy supply are some of the main obstacles to countries’ development.

There is no denying that a sustainable energy supply is crucial for ensuring stable economic growth and improving social welfare while at the same time preserving the ecosystems we live in. This is why we believe it is important to evaluate our operations, nuclear technologies and energy projects in terms of their impact on certain sustainable development indicators throughout the life cycle of any given endeavour we undertake. In this regard, Rosatom pays special attention to improving its sustainable engagement. Our new report Nuclear Power for Sustainable Development explains how nuclear energy contributes to particular SDGs, both directly and indirectly.

We are still at the beginning of our sustainability journey and a lot of work still lies ahead. It is important for us to be following this path alongside our colleagues overseas and international organisations, not only from the nuclear industry, but also from the energy sector as a whole, to make sure that the world’s energy system maintains a sustainable balance.

As for the current situation, we believe that sustainable development in general, and the climate agenda in particular, will remain of paramount importance and will be the world’s greatest priority in the new, post-coronavirus reality.

We are certain that nuclear energy, which is undoubtedly a low-carbon and sustainable source of power generation, is bound to make a substantial contribution to our sustainable future and to help the world move towards this at a faster pace. We are more than ready to tailor our projects to meet the needs of any country that becomes one of our customers.

Evgeny Pakermanov