New IEA chief says no to nuclear is not an option

Maria van der Hoeven, new executive director of the IEA, which will publish its 'low-nuclear scenario' in November. (AFP/ANP/File, Ermindo Armino)

The new chief of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Maria van der Hoeven says nuclear power must have a place in the future energy mix despite the Fukushima catastrophe and the decision by some countries to opt out.

The former Dutch minister for economic affairs, who took up the post of IEA executive director on September 1, succeeding Japan’s Nobuo Tanaka, said she would be looking to countries like Germany, Italy and Switzerland to explain how they plan to cover their future energy needs without nuclear power.

“If you would like to abandon nuclear, then my question is: ‘How are you going to meet the growing demand of energy when you are abandoning one of your sources? If the answer is ‘we’ll do it with renewables’, then my question will be ‘how’?”

In an interview with AFP, Ms. van der Hoeven said: “Nuclear power is necessary for our energy future. We need it. If we really want to go – and we do – towards a future where we have less CO2, there are only two real things to get there, and it has to do with nuclear because it doesn’t produce CO2 and it has to do with renewables.”

The IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2011, to be published in November, will examine the effects of a low-nuclear scenario, said Ms. van der Hoeven. “It will show what will happen if nuclear is not going to be part of the energy mix anymore. What we see in Germany is that there will be greater coal and gas and imports from France of nuclear energy.”

“If you would like to abandon nuclear, then my question is: ‘How are you going to meet the growing demand of energy when you are abandoning one of your sources? That question has to be answered by all those countries and governments who would like to abandon nuclear. If the answer is ‘we’ll do it with renewables’, then my question will be ‘how’?.

“How cost-effective are renewables? How much are they deployed at this moment? How are you going to speed up the curve of renewables so that they’re going to be a greater part of the energy supply?”

The Paris-based IEA is the energy branch of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which represents 28 industrialized nations.

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