Magazine article UN Chronicle

Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy Increasing Worldwide

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy Increasing Worldwide

Article excerpt

Peaceful uses of nuclear energy increasing worlwide

A major report of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to the Conference detailed its role in promoting international co-operation in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

In 1957, it stated, there were 10 prototype nuclear power units world wide, with an installed capacity of 214 electrical megawatts MW(e). By the end of 1984, some 345 nuclear power units were in operation--including 22 plants in nine developing countries. Total installed capacity was about 220,000 MW(e), including nearly 9,000 MW(e) in developing countries, amounting to an average of 13 per cent of total electricity generated world wide, 45 to 60 per cent in some countries.

International co-operation in the supply of materials and equipment and in technology transfer has made possible nuclear power development in many countries, the report stated. Radiation protection standards promoted by the Agency through international information exchange and assistance programmes helped to expand the use of isotope and radiation techniques, in particular with regard to food and medical supply irradiation, the sterile insect technique, medical diagnostic methods, industrial control techniques and hydrological investigations.

The nuclear power industry in recent years experienced two major accidents: at the TMI-2 power plant (Three Mile Island) in the United States in March 1979 and the Chernobyl-4 power plant in the USSR in April 1986. The Chernobyl accident would have a serious impact in several areas, the Agency warned.

Trends: The predicted slow-down in growth of nuclear power in the second half of the 1980s is related primarily to economic factors--slow growth of electricity demand, high initial investment costs and unavailability of capital. Those factors are particularly acute for developing countries.

Availability of small and medium-sized power reactors could improve the situation, since they could be integrated into smaller electricity grids, with lower total capital costs than larger plants. It is considered unlikely that such reactors will be made available by manufacturers unless a significantly larger market develops.

The IAEA predicts that the increased use of tracer techniques is likely to be more rapid in agriculture and industry. Radiation sterilization techniques for medical products is expected to increase, as is radiation treatment in polymer improvement, surface curing and degradation of agricultural waste into secondary energy products.

Increasing attention will be given to large-scale food irradiation and biological control of agricultural pests through the sterile insect technique. The rapid development of computer science in hydrology has made possible development of hydrological models to predict more accurately the behaviour of systems under a given set of conditions. These models can now be independently verified through the use of environmental isotope techniques. …

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