|UI Chairmanís Welcome|
It is a great pleasure to welcome you all to the Twenty-Fourth Annual Symposium of the Uranium Institute. We have a splendid programme for you, with distinguished speakers from all parts of the world.
It is not only the Twenty-Fourth Annual Symposium of the Institute. It is the last Symposium of the present century. We have of course taken stock of the current situation, and we have presentations about the latest developments in mining, and in reactor technology. We also look at the progress made in the introduction of deregulation and greater competition in the electricity markets of the world.
But most important of all, we have attempted to look ahead to the next century. Where does nuclear go from here? What does nuclear energy have to offer an energy-hungry world in the next millennium? Or rather, since we should also keep our feet on the ground, what does it have to offer in the next fifty years? You will hear the head of the World Energy Council and the representative of the International Energy Agency in Paris point out that there is no doubt about the demand for energy which will arise in the next fifty to a hundred years. Will the nuclear energy supporting industries rise to the challenge? At the Uranium Institute we aim to ensure that they do. This is why one of the main themes at this Symposium is innovation.
Nuclear power is a relatively young industry. It is just over forty years since the first commercial electricity was supplied to the grid by a nuclear power generator. In development terms we have reached the stage represented in the motor industry by the Model-T Ford, the traction avant of the Citroen company in the 1930s and 1940s, or of the Austin 10 or the Volkswagen Beetle. These cars were better than the pioneer vehicles of the beginning of the century, but in terms of reliability and performance they are far behind what is available today.
The progress which we have seen in the past half century in motor vehicles has been much influenced by the globalisation of the market and consequent increase in competition. The electricity industry has just embarked on the equivalent of the opening up of the global consumer goods market which followed the implementation of the GATT in the late 1940s. It will be a bumpy ride, and I am very much aware that many of the motor manufacturers of earlier years have disappeared. But those who survived are hugely better today than they were half a century ago.
We are determined that the same shall be said of nuclear power in 2050.
You will see that in the programme of our Symposium there are some new developments on offer. The first, and in many ways the key to the rest, is in nuclear power generation. If we cannot find a way in this more open and competitive energy world to adapt and to diversify the nuclear offering we shall go the way of a lot of charming old-fashioned companies of early this century which were unable to survive the competition. So the first innovation we have on offer is in power generation. Dr Kelvin Kemm will talk on Eskomís revolutionary plans to build a prototype high-temperature pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR).
The PBMR not only makes inroads into the demands of competition, whether it be in the developed world, or in the developing world where grid installations are fragile or even non-existent. It makes use of fission energy with improved efficiency, and is designed to meet public concerns about safety and non-proliferation.
As we all know, public concern about radioactive waste is a major consideration when considering a nuclear power programme. The Symposium programme includes a session which reviews the case for permanent disposal, examines public concerns about the timescales involved, and takes a look at innovative techniques for dealing with the waste so as to calm public anxieties, and at the same time to extract more of the latent energy of uranium. Transmutation may still be on the drawing board, but the project which Francesco Venneri will describe addresses many of the publicís present concerns about waste management, while turning some of the waste products of todayís technologies into useful sources of energy. It also contributes directly and indirectly to the easing of concerns about proliferation.
These are two of the more visionary concepts which you will hear about during this Symposium. But there are several presentations which record less spectacular but nevertheless real gains made in efficiency and competitiveness by methodical re-examination and overhaul of existing processes and techniques. Financial management is also tackled in a paper on the financial aspects of decommissioning,
The nuclear industry has entered a period of challenge and competition. The evidence which the presentations at this Symposium present suggests that our industry is rising to the challenge with much more energy and enthusiasm than seemed possible only a couple of years ago. It is a good omen for the future.
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