US plots fusion power future

United States’ energy secretary Jennifer Granholm has said the country is on course to create a nuclear future, where the power is a source of unity and peace across the planet.

Speaking to a session of the 2023 IAEA 5th International Ministerial Conference, Granholm (above) said nuclear power was a key part of the world’s efforts to tackle climate change.

“This year’s General Conference marks 70 years since President Eisenhower presented his vision of ‘Atoms for Peace’—a future where nuclear technology could serve the needs, rather than the fears, of humankind,” she explained. “Today, thanks to the leadership of the IAEA and the prowess of our scientific communities, peaceful nuclear technology serves many civilian needs—from fighting cancer to fighting climate change.

“The United States is committed to the IAEA’s mission of helping all responsible nations expand such capabilities. We will continue to provide financial, technical, and capacity-building assistance, while upholding and promoting the highest nuclear safety, security, and non-proliferation standards.”

She added: “The United States is fully committed to peaceful uses of nuclear technology and to furthering the IAEA’s critical nuclear safety, security, and safeguards mission.

“We pledge to protect the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty—which underpins both our global disarmament efforts and our commitment to non-proliferation.

“And we reaffirm our commitment to uphold the highest non-proliferation standards around the world, including through the AUKUS partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia.”

Granholm used the speech to urge the world to come together to use nuclear power for good.

“I want to expand upon President Biden’s call to action. Together, we must commit to not only live up to President Eisenhower’s vision but modernise it with our 21st-century capabilities and values.”

As such she said there were imperative which had to be addressed.

“First, with the climate crisis firmly on our doorstep, we must leverage nuclear power’s full potential to help us achieve a net-zero carbon future while advancing energy security,” she added. “Nuclear energy is already a reliable source of carbon-free firm power. Emerging technologies present exciting opportunities to make it more affordable, accessible, and deployable.

“And groundbreaking discoveries are broadening the bounds of what’s possible—of course, I’m talking about our recent achievement of fusion ignition, which brings us one step closer to harnessing the power of the Sun and the stars right here on Earth.”

Granholm said the USA would be investing in new nuclear technologies including the development of fusion power.

“All of this is why the United States is committed to supporting the US nuclear industry as it develops the next generation of nuclear technologies—while simultaneously prioritizing safety, security, and safeguards in their designs.

“Second, we must leverage these scientific breakthroughs to advance development, by expanding civil applications of nuclear science and technology.

“From fighting hunger and malnutrition to detecting and preventing disease, nuclear technologies can help all countries pursue the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and improve people’s quality of life.”

Granholm added the United States is committed to supporting the IAEA in harnessing that “extraordinary potential”, particularly through Rays of Hope, IAEA’s flagship program to take on the global cancer care gap.

“Third, we must focus not just on the work ahead of us, but the people behind it, too,” she continued. “We know we can produce the strongest, most innovative, most effective solutions when we include a range of perspectives. That is why we must continue to expand and diversify the nuclear workforce, including by closing the gender equality gap.”

She concluded: “If we each commit to these imperatives, we can fully realise President Eisenhower’s vision in the modern age—where nuclear energy is a tool for peace, and a tool for unity.

“More than ever, as an international community, we must continue to heed his words, and dedicate our strength to serve the needs of humanity.”