As the nuclear sector takes its place at the COP27 gathering, the International Atomic Energy Agency's director general says that Long Term Operation (extending the lifetime of existing nuclear plants) is the "unsung hero of the fight against global warming".

The IAEA director general spoke at the opening of the #Atoms4Climate programme of events (Image: IAEA)

Rafael Mariano Grossi was speaking at the first full day of events at the #Atoms4Climate stage at the 27th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

Grossi and a host of other industry figures stressed the important role nuclear must play in efforts to cut carbon emissions and to tackle climate change. He said that the fact there was a pavilion at COP27 for nuclear was "a first and a reflection of how things are changing".

In a question and answer session with Bloomberg’s William Kennedy, Grossi was asked about the fact that the many reactors built in the 1970s were now approaching their 50th year, with some having had operational permissions extended to 60 or 70 years and was asked whether that would be safe.

Grossi replied: "The unsung hero of the fight against global warming is Long Term Operation, which is basically having, with half or even less the initial investment, a new reactor that is going to be there - you say to 70 years, I say 100, you know, it's going to be closer. We see reactors now that are closer to 80 years and are perfectly safe, having undergone very thorough refurbishing operations."

He said that the involvement of the IAEA was crucial "because what we do is work with national regulators through very intensive peer reviews to make sure that Long Term Operation is giving you a new nuclear reactor, not simply an old one which is more or less muddling through".

Asked if he thought that from a climate change point of view, countries shutting reactors were making a mistake, he said: "Well in my personal opinion, yes. This is a matter that requires a technical, scientifically-sound discussion. I think from the vantage point of the nuclear sector, we must also recognise political realities, because in politics 2 plus 2 is not 4. Sometimes, from a scientific or technical point of view, it is very difficult to accept that people are taking decisions that do not seem to square, but it happens and the challenge for us is to prove, and to show, that keeping nuclear in the equation is going to give you the energy, is going to give you the solution to your climate problem, is going to give you jobs, is going to give you opportunities - it is going to give you things that are very important for political people to get the votes they need."

During the session Grossi also restated the need for a protection zone around the nuclear power plant at Zaporizhzhia in Ukraine which, as he pointed out, is on the frontline of the war. The six reactor plant, occupied by Russian forces, currently has IAEA staff stationed there, but Grossi said there was an emerging question about future safeguard inspections, because the IAEA had different mechanisms for inspecting nuclear facilities in countries without nuclear weapons - such as Ukraine - and those with nuclear weapons - such as Russia. Efforts continue to try to establish the protection zone "in the near future", for what, he noted, was a very large site with a variety of different facilities.

Other speakers on the first full day of events at the #Atoms4Climate stage included World Association of Nuclear Operators President Mohamed Al Hammadi who said that the “new momentum” seen in the civil nuclear industry sector was being driven by the world’s need for large scale decarbonisation and energy security and the industry "must get ahead of the curve when it comes to ensuing that we have the resources and the capacity to deliver" safe, reliable and timely new capacity.

World Nuclear Association Director General Sama Bilbao y León, in a video message, said the association had represented nuclear at COP meetings for more than 20 years, and said there had been a change of attitude - a positive change - towards nuclear last year at COP26. She added: "This is now the moment for the nuclear industry to really step up - it is essential for the nuclear industry to demonstrate it has the capacity and the ambition to deliver the massive contribution to climate change mitigation that is needed if the global community is to succeed in reaching net-zero with the urgency needed."

Here is the full list of events on the #Atoms4Climate stage. They are being live streamed, via the links provided.

8 November 2022

Carbon Removal using Coastal Blue Carbon Ecosystems
Time: 10:30-11:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

​Nuclear Energy's Contribution to Climate Change Mitigation
Time: 12:00-13:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

Nuclear for Climate?! What You Always Wanted to Know About Nuclear Technologies but Weren't Sure Who to Ask
Time: 15:00-16:00 (GMT +2)| Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

9 November 2022

Atoms4Climate Pavilion Grand Opening Event
Time: 10:00-11:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

Peace, Climate Change and Energy Security: The Global Tipping Point
Time: 11:30-12:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

​Affordability, Resilience and Security of Energy Supply
Time: 13:00-14:00 (GMT +2)| Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

Access Low Carbon Financing
Time: 14:30-15:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

Financing New Nuclear Build
Time: 17:30-18:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Nuclear Energy – Climate Friend or Foe?
Time: 18:45-19:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

10 November 2022

Taking Action: How the Youth Galvanize Innovation in, Implementation of, and Conversations About Clean Energy
Time: 9:00-10:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

Global Action for Climate Adaptation: Science for the Future
Time: 10:30-11:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Clean Energy Advocacy: Engaging Stakeholders with Science to Achieve Net Zero
Time: 12:00-13:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

The Role of Nuclear Energy in the Hydrogen Economy
Time: 13.30-14.30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Sustainable Water Resource Management: Successes and Challenges in the Sahel
Time: 15:00-16:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Nuclear for Climate and Development - Young Professionals Leading the Change, in Conversation with IAEA Director General
Time: 16:30-17:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Interplay of Low Carbon Energy Systems
Time: 18:30-20:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

11 November 2022

IAEA and WMO Supporting Member States in Reducing GHG Emissions
Time: 10:30-11:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

Nuclear and Renewables to Partner and Achieve Net Zero
Time: 12:00-13:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Decarbonization Beyond Electricity
Time: 15:00-16:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

Creating Carbon Markets for a Net Zero Future
Time: 16:30-17:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

How Nuclear Energy Can Bring Employment Benefits and Deliver Environmental Justice
Time: 18:00-19:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

12 November 2022

Ocean Acidification Adaptation and Resilience in Africa
Time: 9:00-10:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

​Halting Wetland Loss through Innovative Science Approaches
Time: 10:30-11:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Gender-Responsive Climate Action in African Agriculture Using Nuclear Science and Technology
Time: 12:00-13:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Climate Change Impact in Mountains: How the Melting Cryosphere Affects Local Communities and Ecosystems
Time: 14.00-15.00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

14 November 2022

Changing the Game for Climate-Female Leaders in the Nuclear Space
Time: 10:30-11:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

​Glacier Retreat in Response to Climate Change: Using Novel Scientific Tools to Assess Impacts
Time: 16.30-17.30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Desalination with Nuclear Energy
Time: 12.00-13.00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Nuclear Beyond Energy: Supporting Island States Affected by Climate Change with Scientific Innovations
Time: 13:30-14:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Experiences of Women Working in the Nuclear Industry and How Clean Energy Can Empower Women
Time: 15:00-16:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Glacier Retreat in Response to Climate Change: Using Novel Scientifc Tools to Assess Impacts
Time: 16:30-17:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Policies Measures to Promote a Clean Energy Future
Time: 18:00-19:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

15 November 2022

Working Together to Deliver a Clean Energy Mix
Time: 9:00-10:00 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Nuclear Energy in Africa
Time: 10:30-11:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Film Juice: How Electricity Explains the World, followed by a Q&A Session
Time: 12:00-13:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Integrating Climate, Agriculture, Energy and Water for Sustainable Development
Time: 13:00-14:00 (GMT +2) | Location: Food & Agriculture - FAO Pavilion​

Role of Nuclear in Decarbonization Including Hydrogen Production
Time: 14:00-15:00 (GMT +2) | Location: French Pavilion​

What is the Role of New Nuclear Technology in Achieving a Clean Energy Mix
Time: 17:30-18:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion​

Supporting Member States in their Clean Energy Transition
Time: 18:15-19:15 (GMT +2) | Location: SDG Pavilion

16 November 2022

Beyond COP27, Nuclear's Contribution to Sustainable Development
Time: 10:30-11:30 (GMT +2) | Location: #Atoms4Climate Pavilion

Researched and written by World Nuclear News

Date: Thursday, 10 November 2022
Original article:,