SIEW 2016: 5Qs with Helmut Engelbrecht, Chairman, World Nuclear Association (WNA)

Helmut Engelbrecht

Helmut graduated in mechanical engineering from the University of Aachen and has a PhD in nuclear technology. In 1986 he moved to PreussenElektra, becoming Head of Corporate Development in 1998, and was appointed Director of E.ON Benelux in 2000. Helmut joined URENCO as an Executive member of its Board in 2003 and was appointed CEO in January 2005. He retired from that position at the end of 2015.

Helmut took up the position of Chairman of the World Nuclear Association in April 2016.

1. The SIEW 2016 theme “New Energy Realities” highlights the energy decisions Asia faces. What do you think will be the most significant changes to the region’s energy mix by 2050?

Across Asia the supply of electricity will be improved and increased to ensure that everyone has access to the affordable and reliable electricity they need to provide a good standard of living.

In order to achieve this Asian countries need to make the best use of their existing electricity supply infrastructure. And they also need to add massive amounts of new generation from sources that do not increase their reliance on imports of fossil fuels. This means electricity generation capacity should be built using nuclear and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

2. How do you think the Paris Agreement impacts the shift of low-carbon energy sources and technologies into the mainstream?

The Paris Agreement demonstrated the international community’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to help minimize human impact on the environment.

To achieve this objective the only acceptable sources of electricity are low carbon generation options, including nuclear energy and renewables such as wind and solar.

3. In your opinion, how could electricity markets and regulations evolve in Asia to ensure a smooth transition to low-carbon power systems?

Access to electricity is a basic human need and supplying this requires a complex infrastructure that needs to be created, maintained and developed. This is traditionally the task of the national state.

When considering the cost of electricity it is important to focus not only on the marginal cost of electricity generation. The overall cost of energy supply should be the focus, including the cost of electricity transport and distribution as well as the costs to ensure security of supply.

Governments have the opportunity to lead the development of their electricity infrastructure, to ensure that it is designed to meet the needs of the people. In major cities that need will most probably be met with large-scale generation plant. But in more areas with smaller and more disperse populations smaller scale generation plants will be more appropriate to their needs.

4. What are some of the latest innovations in nuclear technology and safety?

The latest nuclear technology also demonstrates the industry’s commitment to safety. New reactors are designed so that, should there be an accident, any impact will be contained within the plant site.

New nuclear technology is bringing greater flexibility and improved performance.  This includes not only for the latest generation of reactors, but also to those already in operation.

Looking forward, small modular reactors (SMRs) are suitable for a wider range of locations than current large scale generation, where a more decentralized electricity supply is wanted.

Small nuclear generation will be factory built and be transported to the site of use. This will minimize the investment risk and reduce the time required to start electricity production.

5. How does the World Nuclear Association envision its cooperation with Asia to promote nuclear energy and safety standards?

The nuclear industry is a truly global industry that we, the World Nuclear Association, represent.  We have put forward the Harmony goal, which anticipates 1000 GW of new nuclear capacity worldwide by 2050 as part of a sustainable energy future. This will include expanding the use of nuclear energy around the world.

The IAEA does important work assisting countries develop their nuclear energy expertise. In addition, the nuclear industry has more than 50 years of experience in creating and operating nuclear generation worldwide. The World Nuclear Association helps to create awareness of and to facilitate international cooperation to make the best use of this experience.


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