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construction, 16 are in developing countries.72 And while the highest percentage of existing reactors is in North America and western Europe, recent expansion has been primarily in Asia and eastern Europe. In other regions, the more immediate focus is on power upgrades, restarts of previously shutdown reactors, and license extensions. For example, in the United States of America, 16 reactors have had their operating licenses extended to 60 years, and many more applications are under review.73

The long term prospects for nuclear power, however, will depend on the industry’s success in addressing concerns associated with waste disposal, safety and security, and proliferation, while also improving economic competitiveness of future reactors. Nearly 20 IAEA Member States are currently involved in projects to develop reactor and fuel cycle designs that would address some of these concerns, and a number of countries are also exploring the nuclear co-generation of hydrogen, to address demands for cleaner energy in the transportation sector.

The current spectrum of proliferation and security issues should provide the impetus for greater innovation in policy as well as technology. One example relates to the operation of sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle. It is time to re-consider the merits of limiting the reprocessing of weapon-usable material (separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium) in civilian nuclear programs—as well as the production of new material through reprocessing and enrichment—by agreeing to restrict these operations exclusively to facilities under multinational control and verification. These limitations would need to be accompanied by appropriate rules of transparency and—above all—assurance of supply for would-be users.

Furthermore, it is also important to consider multinational approaches to the management and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste. Over 50 countries currently have spent fuel stored in temporary locations awaiting reprocessing or disposal.74 Not all countries have the appropriate geological conditions for such disposal—and, for many countries with small nuclear programs for electricity generation or for research, the financial and human resource investments required for the construction and operation of a geological disposal facility are daunting.


Recently, the IAEA has begun emphasizing the role of “energy for development” since it is becoming more and more clear that without energy there can be no development, and without development there is misery that can often lead to violence. The energy shortage in developing countries is a staggering impediment to development. To give some perspective, it is enough to mention that the countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, on average, consume electricity at a rate roughly 100 times that of the world’s least developed countries.75






Mohamed ElBaradei, IAEA Director General, Statement to the Forty-ninth Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference 2005. Available at; accessed May 26, 2008.


IAEA, “Reference Data Series, No. 1.” See also, “Nuclear Energy: The Need For A New Framework,” statements by Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, April 17, 2008, Berlin, Germany, International Conference on

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