"There is no solution to a sustainable energy future without nuclear energy"
"To meet the growing demand for reliable, affordable and clean electricity, we will need all low-carbon energy sources to work together as part of a diverse mix. Achieving this means nuclear capacity must expand", says Agneta Rising, World Nuclear Association Director general. And she adds: "Nuclear professionals need to reach out to the general public, answering their questions, meeting their concerns and building trust".
"The Association's goal is to promote a wider understanding of nuclear energy among key international decision makers"
What are the main goals pursued by the World Nuclear Association (WNA)?
The Association's goal is to promote a wider understanding of nuclear energy among key international decision makers. We are the only nuclear organisation with a global mandate to promote nuclear energy, and as such we are in a unique position to ensure that nuclear energy has its right place in the wider energy debate, and to demonstrate the importance of nuclear energy for the future of electricity. We also developed a vision for the future of electricity on behalf of the global nuclear community - The Harmony Goal – that nuclear provides 25% of electricity by 2050 as part of a low carbon energy mix.
What are the most significant activities in your organization?
All our activities relate to our overall mission to promote a better understanding of nuclear energy by all stakeholders, and to ensure that the global industry, forming our membership, is adequately represented. We do this by producing authoritative information, via our website mainly, which serves as the world's most comprehensive nuclear information source. We do this also by developing common industry positions on important issues related to nuclear energy, through working groups and representation of the industry in key world forums. And we do this by actively contributing to the energy debate to place nuclear as an important part of a low carbon mix and clean energy future. The Harmony programme provides a framework for action, helping industry reach out to key stakeholders so that the barriers to achieving the Harmony goal can be removed.
In all of our activities, we work alongside other organizations across the globe. Through the World Nuclear University programmes, we work with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) to enhance nuclear education and build nuclear leadership to secure the future of the industry.
How do you see, from the organization you lead, the future of nuclear power in the world and more specifically in Europe?
Harmony is the global nuclear industry's vision for the future of electricity. To meet the growing demand for reliable, affordable and clean electricity, we will need all low-carbon energy sources to work together as part of a diverse mix. Achieving this means nuclear capacity must expand and we have set the goal of supplying 25% of electricity in 2050 and the construction of 1000 GW of new nuclear.
At the moment nuclear energy supplies about 11% of global electricity. There are 450 reactors operating in 30 countries that represent over 60% of the global population. A further 58 reactors are under construction with plans well underway for many more. There are 20 newcomer countries which are advancing plans to develop nuclear energy. Notably, the UAE plans to start up its first nuclear power reactor at the end of next year and three more will be commissioned soon after, while Belarus' first nuclear power reactor is scheduled to start up in 2019. Last year Bangladesh officially started construction of its first nuclear plant and Turkey joined that list in April this year.
"Europe has long been a leader in nuclear technology and it is important that it continue to be so"
With these positive developments global nuclear capacity is forecast to grow strongly, but it still needs to grow faster for the world to meet its energy supply and environmental goals. Achieving the Harmony goal will require the rate of global annual nuclear capacity additions to eventually grow to a level of over 30GW per year, over triple the rate of recent years.
In EU countries nuclear currently supplies about 27% of electricity – a level which already fits well with the global Harmony target. Nuclear trade body FORATOM believes that the EU should maintain at least the current capacity of nuclear generation up to and beyond 2050. This will entail the commissioning of more than 100 nuclear reactors over the next 35 years. Europe has long been a leader in nuclear technology and it is important that it continue to be so. As well as building new reactors it is important that not too many existing reactors retire prematurely. We hope to see more European countries building new nuclear plants in the coming decades – some for the first time and others replacing and expanding their existing fleets.
Speaking of industry: how would you rate the capacities and technology of the world's nuclear industry?
The operating performance of the global nuclear fleet continues to be strong with the average capacity factor above 80%. We know that many plants are intended to be operated for at least 60 years and that there are even regulatory discussions underway for 80. This is a testimony to an exceptionally robust technology and it's a strong foundation to build on.
"On the technology side it is exciting to see the recent progress with small modular reactors (SMR)"
There are many examples from around the world of nuclear construction projects that have progressed well, especially in countries with a wealth of recent experience, knowledgeable vendors, and a pool of skilled workers. However, there have been several recent cases where lengthy hiatuses in new build have undermined the capability of the nuclear supply chain. Significant delays and project cost escalation have occurred in some well-publicized instances, threatening those projects' ultimate completion and eroding the appetite for building further nuclear power plants. A World Nuclear Association Task Force recently completed a review of both the successful and less successful nuclear projects around the world looking at the underlying issues and identifying potential solutions. This report is available on our website.
On the technology side it is exciting to see the recent progress with small modular reactors. SMRs expand the envelope of nuclear applications and can fill niches that today's large reactors cannot.
What did you learn from your previous positions as a director in Vattenfall company, as well as President of the Uranium Institute and the European and Swedish nuclear societies?
In any organisation, employees are the strongest resource to create a wider understanding of energy matters, especially nuclear energy. With our people we can build trust in nuclear energy and move together to a clean energy future, as in the Harmony goal. In all the organisations I have worked the successes have been based on the direction and performance of the people. Sometimes we would blame technology or politics for failures, but this is only a temporary situation, it is up to us to learn, improve and to work for a better outcome.
You were also co-founder and director of Women in Nuclear (WIN). What are this organization's values?
WiN Global aims to promote the understanding and public awareness of the benefits of nuclear and radiation applications. The first meeting inviting women in nuclear energy from many European countries was held in 1990 and that was the starting point of the organisation that is now called WiN. In many countries there are more concerns about nuclear energy among women in the general public than among men. We, nuclear professionals, need to reach out to the general public, answering their questions, meeting their concerns and building trust, and WiN supports its members in developing this dialogue.
"I believe in diversity, and it is a fact that organisations with a greater gender balance function better"
Do you believe there is a greater presence of women in positions of responsibility related to energy in general and nuclear power in particular?
I believe in diversity, and it is a fact that organisations with a greater gender balance function better. The nuclear industry has for a long time been dominated by men, but this is changing. I see among the young generation a good balance. Managerial positions are still clearly dominated by men. Sometimes I am the only woman in meetings and conference panels.
In our Secretariat, there are three women and three men in managerial positions. And among the rest of the staff we also have a good gender balance. As Director General of the World Nuclear Association, I build on this diversity within the team, members of staff coming from a variety of backgrounds, with different expertise and culture. It makes us more likely to understand, meet and support the people and organisations around us.
Could you share with our readers your team-leading techniques or methods?
I come from Sweden, a country with a reputation of an egalitarian and consensual approach. I always like to ask my team for feedback on the Association's activities, and solicit new ideas. I organise workshops where everyone works together on a given topic, mixing people from different departments and background. It can range from fun activities to more serious research, for example building a nuclear power plant construction kit, or making a presentation on scenarios for the future of nuclear. In addition to creating a bond between staff members, the results are always very good and we use them to improve our activities. Of course, we also gather regularly around the kitchen area for a traditional Swedish "fika"!
"My favourite activities are downhill skiing and snorkelling. Both are great family outings, but also a direct insight into nature and relation between human activities and environment"
What do you like to do in your spare time?
The position of Director General of World Nuclear Association requires a lot of interaction in many different places around the world, which reduces the spare time available. For my personal wellbeing, it is important for me to spend time with my family and grandchildren whenever possible, even if this time is limited. My husband is a great support to us all and altogether it is the most fantastic part of life.
My favourite activities are downhill skiing and snorkelling. Both are great family outings, but also a direct insight into nature and relation between human activities and environment. To swim surrounded by pieces of plastic or to ski on snow covered with particles coming from a neighbouring country demonstrates clearly that we need to work together for clean air, clean water and a clean energy future.
Would you like to add anything?
There is no solution to a sustainable energy future without nuclear energy. All serious scenarios for the future, where the world achieves a clean, reliable, 24/7 electricity supply, demonstrate that nuclear is of key importance.
Spain is an experienced nuclear country and in addition has a strong nuclear export industry. But to further develop and embrace its responsibility for the future and coming generations, Spain should increase the role of nuclear and should be able to have at least a 50 % nuclear electricity share.