World Nuclear Association Director-General Agneta Rising today called on governments, expert bodies and the nuclear industry to do more to ensure that nuclear energy can make the full contribution that society requires to meet its future clean energy needs. Rising was speaking at a press event at the World Nuclear Association Symposium, being held this week in London.
Noting that nuclear generation has been providing low-carbon electricity for more than 60 years, Rising said today she was issuing a “call to action”.
“The world is not on track to provide reliable and affordable electricity to our global population, while meeting our environmental targets,” Rising said. “Access to electricity remains out of reach to hundreds of millions of people.”
She noted that, at the Paris climate change conference nearly two years ago, governments pledged to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees. She said the actions they set out, however, will “barely limit” the temperature rise to 3 degrees.
“We need to do more,” she said. “Nuclear power is a proven source of reliable, cost effective and clean power with significant public benefits. In 2015 and 2016, 20 new nuclear power plants started supplying electricity. Around 10 GWe of new nuclear capacity was added to the grid in each year. This is a higher amount than seen over the preceding 25 years. Nuclear generation has increased every year for the last four years.”
The Association’s latest Fuel Report projections, released today, suggest that – unless action is taken – the pace of growth in nuclear generation will slow.
Rising said: “Under our reference case the projection for 2035 is 482 GWe. The upper scenario, where governments and companies succeed in meeting their declared plans for nuclear, global capacity is projected to reach 625 GWe.”
Referring to the Association’s Harmony initiative, launched at its Symposium in 2015, Rising said the nuclear industry had set a goal to supply 25% of the world’s electricity by 2050, which will mean the construction of 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity. This expansion of nuclear capacity is achievable, Rising said, and requires new nuclear build at rates the industry achieved in the 1980s.
“But even our upper scenario would not be enough to meet this climate goal. Nuclear needs to do more. Action is required in three key areas to enable nuclear generation to grow at a faster rate. This will require reform of energy markets, regulation and our perception of safety to make it possible,” she said.
In many countries electricity markets are “failing to deliver the energy choices” needed.
“We need a level playing field in energy markets that utilises existing low-carbon energy resources already in place and drives investment in additional clean energy resources. A key component of this is that nuclear energy must be included along all other low-carbon technologies. As the only zero-emission generating resource that can be scaled to meet actual demand, nuclear power must also receive recognition and compensation for its contribution to system reliability and for other public benefits,” she said.
“We need an effective safety paradigm focusing on genuine public wellbeing, where the health, environmental and safety benefits of nuclear are valued when compared with other energy sources. And we need harmonised regulatory processes to provide a more internationally consistent, efficient and predictable nuclear licensing regime allowing for standardised solutions, to facilitate significant growth of nuclear capacity, without compromising safety and security.”
Without these changes, the world will not be able to take full advantage of the contribution that nuclear energy should make to address the energy transition to a low-carbon economy, she noted. If action is taken in these three key areas, it would enable nuclear build rates to ramp up to 35 GWe a year. This would allow the target of 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2050 to be met, she said.
This is a “challenging but achievable” target, she said. “It would only require annual nuclear new build rates to increase by three to four times current levels, much lower than the scale of expansion needed for other low-carbon generation options. However, the main challenges are not in production, but in securing policy support.”
Asked how new nuclear generation could compete with renewable energy, Rising agreed that the costs of wind power, solar power and storage capacity are coming down.
“That is great news, but they are not as low as nuclear. You need to look at the levelized cost of electricity, which is the fairest way to compare, and then you see that nuclear comes out as the best. And the other energy sources also need extra support for the system. If that is also added in then nuclear comes out even better. Furthermore, nuclear is also an investment for 60 to 80 years; it’s a sustainable investment and that’s something that governments will look at when they look at the facts and see nuclear’s other benefits for society – that it’s very reliable and that it creates lots of new and interesting jobs, bringing training and education. You can also see stability in the regions where nuclear power plants are. Countries that are very responsible and looking to the coming generations, they are taking this very seriously. The UAE is a good example: there they had resources of oil and gas, but still no nuclear. So, there are examples and I think it’s gaining momentum. There are many countries that are actively looking to use nuclear.
Helmut Engelbrecht, chairman of the Association, added: “If you need proof for what Agneta has just said, look at my home country of Germany. It is increasing its renewable energy generation and in theory subsidies for renewables should go down year by year, but the opposite is true. Per kilowatt hour, power customers pay one-third in subsidies in order to get their energy and that is due to fact that when you bring wind and solar to the system it might be cheap, but if you look at 30%, 40%, 50% of capacity, the backup that you need will add to the cost and will ultimately make the overall system cost not lower but higher.”
Source: World Nuclear News