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[ Forum] Former IEA chief calls for embracing hydrogen, nuclear for sustainable future

May 22, 2024 - 14:39 By Song Seung-hyun
Nobuo Tanaka, former executive director of the International Energy Agency, delivers a keynote speech during the Forum held under the theme “The Transition: Blue, Clean, and Green” at Some Sevit, Seoul, on Wednesday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Nobuo Tanaka, former executive director of the International Energy Agency, emphasized the importance of hydrogen and nuclear energy for both Japan and South Korea to address global energy and climate crises, during his keynote speech at the Forum held in Seoul on Wednesday.

"Japan and Korea, I definitely think, can be winners by using clean hydrogen as well as nuclear power," Tanaka said during his keynote speech at the annual forum organized by Herald Media Group.

Tanaka, who currently chairs the steering committee of the Innovation for Cool Earth Forum, explained that there will be winners and losers in the global energy and climate crises.

He further went on to say while some nations, such as the US with the Inflation Reduction Act and the EU with the REPowerEU plan, are positioned to weather these crises through aggressive renewable energy investments, others, like Russia, heavily reliant on fossil fuels, are likely to be losers.

The former IEA chief highlighted the potential for cooperation between Japan and South Korea in building a global supply chain for clean hydrogen, similar to their past collaboration on liquefied natural gas.

"Hydrogen pipeline connection could be the future for us (Japan and Korea)," he added.

Tanaka mentioned the importance of nuclear energy as it is regaining popularity. However, he acknowledged the lingering concerns from the Fukushima disaster and emphasized that nuclear energy can only be considered sustainable if three conditions are met: minimum risk of accidents, effective radioactive waste management, and non-proliferation.

He then proposed a trilateral collaboration between Japan, South Korea and the US as a path forward. He suggested that the tripartite collaboration should be discussed during a follow-up meeting to the Camp David summit, held last year, of US President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

"(Through the follow-up summit), the US, Japan, and Korea should (discuss plans to) develop ‘integral fast reactors and pyroprocessing,’" he said, referring to a system developed by the Argonne National Laboratory in the US. He noted that this system has major safety advantages, facilitates easy nuclear waste management, and offers proliferation resistance.

He also proposed the three countries develop nuclear propulsion submarines as part of a Northeast Asian AUKUS and collaborate for the denuclearization of North Korea during his speech.

The Forum is an annual event designed to raise awareness of environmental disasters posing grave threats to humanity. Herald Media Group, which publishes The Korea Herald and Herald Business, is the host and the organizer of the forum.