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Advancing the nuclear energy agenda: Highlights from the Brussels Summit 

March 28, 2024 Work Area: Advanced Nuclear

Last week, world leaders, heads of state, policymakers, and sector leaders gathered in Brussels for the first-ever Nuclear Energy Summit at the head of state level to highlight the pivotal role nuclear energy can play in decarbonization and economic development. Organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Belgian government, the historic summit saw participation from more than 30 countries along with stakeholders from across the nuclear energy ecosystem – including NGOs like CATF.  

Six key principles to scale nuclear energy 

CATF took an active role during the summit by hosting sideline programming, including an official side event reflecting on the summit’s outcomes. This event featured key figures such as former U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, and World Nuclear Association CEO Sama Bilbao Y León.  

Along with partners from the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the EFI Foundation (EFI), CATF also spearheaded the launch of a global declaration from 20 NGOs calling for the sustainable and responsible expansion of nuclear energy. To scale nuclear power, CATF and our fellow signatories encouraged all stakeholders to consider the following six principles: 

  1. Pooling resources, when possible, to generate large orderbooks of specific designs and thereby stimulate upstream investment and share risks; 
  1. Implementing policies and sending clear signals that support sustained at scale nuclear energy investment as part of broader clean energy, energy security, and economic development planning; 
  1. Developing and maintaining strong, independent regulatory capabilities while forging international partnerships that benefit from best practices; 
  1. Expanding opportunities for international collaboration to develop a strong workforce and talent pipeline;  
  1. Avoiding technologies that can exacerbate security concerns and commit to the highest standards for safeguards; 
  1. Planning proactively for the responsible management of spent fuel. 

Key takeaways from the summit

The summit’s participants – many of them European nations – signaled an unprecedented interest in fostering international collaboration to scale nuclear energy. There were also multiple calls to develop innovative financial instruments to facilitate the financing of nuclear projects. This emphasis on financial mechanisms highlights the recognition of the crucial role investment plays in scaling nuclear energy infrastructure worldwide.  

The summit also saw increased advocacy for an integrated EU strategy to advance small modular reactors (SMRs) via newly launched EU industrial alliance on SMRs (which CATF expects to join) and addressing key areas for the expanding nuclear energy. These include: 

  • Project execution and capacity building,  
  • Project bankability and finance,  
  • Nuclear nonproliferation and security, 
  • International collaboration on licensing,  
  • Spent nuclear fuel management, and,  
  • Workforce development.  

These themes echoed recommendations that CATF, along with our partners at EFI and NTI, put forward in a joint playbook, A Global Playbook for Nuclear Energy Development in Embarking Countries, and separate CATF report, Nuclear Energy at Scale, in December 2023. CATF also briefed major players on these issues and presented them to the European Parliament in 2023. 

On the sidelines of the summit, CATF staff also engaged in discussions with key leaders within the European Commission on how to move from pledges to action. CATF will play an active role in seeing these ideas to fruition. 

Building momentum

The Brussels Summit marks a significant step forward, building on momentum generated by nuclear energy stakeholders at COP28. The Summit also underscores the crucial task of translating political commitments into concrete actions. Governments, industrial consumers, and the nuclear industry must collaborate to develop detailed implementation strategies to ensure the timely and efficient execution of nuclear projects. Moreover, financial institutions need to demonstrate a willingness to invest in the burgeoning nuclear sector, providing the necessary capital to support its expansion at the pace needed to achieve energy transition and meet 2050 climate goals. 

While nuclear energy shows promise, there’s still a long way to go. CATF will be there every step of the way, advocating and building coalitions to accelerate progress.  

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