Atomic power demand rises despite Fukushima

Kyodo

Yukiya Amano, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tuesday demand for atomic energy around the world is on the rise, although the nuclear crisis in Japan triggered by the March earthquake and tsunami has dented growth.

“Despite the accident, the IAEA’s latest projection is that the number of operating nuclear reactors in the world will continue to increase steadily in the coming decades, although less rapidly than was anticipated before the accident,” the agency’s director general said in his report to the 66th U.N. General Assembly.

Most of the growth will occur in countries such as India and China that already have operating nuclear power plants, he said.

At the same time many developing countries still plan to introduce nuclear power due to growing global demand for energy and concerns about climate change as well as about volatile fossil fuel prices and the security of energy supplies.

Explaining that the agency has been working with the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant since the crisis started, doing “everything it can” to help, he also stressed the importance of a 12-point action plan on nuclear safety adopted in September.

“The action plan represents a significant step forward,” he said. “It is vital that it is fully implemented in all countries with nuclear power and that the right lessons are learned from the Fukushima No. 1 accident.”

Amano further explained that the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. “are now confident” that a cold shutdown at the Tepco plant will be achieved by the end of the year.

Deputy Ambassador Kazuo Kodama, speaking after Amano’s report, said Japan is moving forward.

“Despite the tragic events, I am convinced that, through the resilience of our people and assisted by the generous support of our partners in the international community, including the IAEA, we will overcome this challenge,” he said.

“I am equally confident that we will find a path toward a safer nuclear future, benefiting from the lessons learned and the accumulated wisdom of the world.”

Amano also reiterated the agency’s concerns about North Korea, and Iran.

North Korea’s nuclear arms program “remains a matter of serious concern,” given reports that it is constructing a new uranium enrichment facility and a light water reactor, he said.

On Iran, Amano cited his recent reports that the country “is not providing the necessary cooperation to enable the agency to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”