Conversations from Shanghai – International Atomic Energy Agency

Written by Zaf Coelho. Posted in Uncategorized

Ayhan Evrensel is a communication adviser with the International Atomic Energy Agency. While in Shanghai for Asia Nuclear Business Platform, he participated in a panel on battling societal perceptions of the risks of nuclear power projects and sat down with us to talk about the importance of stakeholder involvement.

Asia Nuclear Business Platform (ANBP): How important is stakeholder involvement?

Ayhan Evrensel (AE): In my department we deal with the whole fuel cycle – from uranium to waste, through power and research reactors. In all the steps of the nuclear fuel cycle, for power generation and research reactors, stakeholder involvement is a very, very important issue for IAEA member states. It’s actually embedded in the IAEA safety standards produced by the member states and it is a key recommendation for countries new to nuclear power.

In 2007, we came up with a guidance for member states that goes step by step through nuclear decision making. This Milestones Approach defines three phases – consider, prepare, construct – and all the steps that need to be taken to launch a nuclear power program. Once they decide, we go through with them in closing their own gaps – in strengthening their infrastructure – in 19 clearly identified issues throughout the three phases. And one of those 19 technical issues is stakeholder involvement. So for us, stakeholder engagement is as important as legal infrastructure, as the grid system, as waste management policy, etc.

ANBP: Do you see a growing awareness of the importance of stakeholder involvement?

AE: Yes, I think so. IAEA Member States that are now either considering or are embarking on a nuclear power program see the importance of it because absence of securing support could simply put projects to a halt. The former approach of “decide and defend” just does not work. This is a notion that the operating countries learned the hard way, and the newcomer countries are learning – hopefully not the hard way – because there are numerous examples of what not to do. There are several nuclear power plants that were constructed but never went into operation. And for a good deal of those, stakeholder involvement played an important role. So, the newcomers don’t want to repeat these mistakes. The IAEA is a great hub for this learning. We take people from operating countries, together with people from newcomer states, to share experiences, best practices and mistakes, and build programs and projects that are started with buy-in from various stakeholders, including national entities, research bodies, as well as the public.

ANBP: How important is what’s happening in Asia to the future of nuclear energy?

AE: Asia currently is the engine of nuclear power’s expansion. Two thirds of the new builds currently taking place are happening in Asia. China is the leading country of those. If we take China, India, Pakistan, South Korea, it’s clear Asia is the engine. It’s where nuclear power is on a boom. The expansion of energy demand is big and nuclear power is taking a share of that, whereas in other parts of the world, nuclear power is kind of in stagnation or decline. But overall, globally, for the first time last year, the IAEA’s low projections showed a decline in installed nuclear power capacity for 2030, 2040 and 2050. As much as we see a massive buildout happening, the projections for nuclear power’s future are likely to go down for 2030, 2040 and 2050. And I think that’s an important message for decision-makers around the globe:, if they still want to have their energy security, if they want to fulfil their climate commitments and meet their sustainable development goals, nuclear power has a crucial role to play in the future electricity mix.

Conversations from Shanghai is a series of interviews with key participants and speakers from the 2018 edition of Asia Nuclear Business Platform which took place 8-11 May 2018 in Shanghai, China. It was conducted by the PR Agency, Potomac Communications Group. Nuclear Business Platform moves to Mumbai, India next for India Nuclear Business Platform this 9-10 October 2018