Today the International Energy Agency (IEA) has released an energy-focussed COVID-19 recovery plan identifying actions that will “move the world towards a cleaner and more resilient future.” Investment in existing nuclear plants, new nuclear build and supporting innovation in small modular reactors are among measures proposed to support a broad range of clean energy technologies.
Responding to the launch of the report Agneta Rising, Director General of World Nuclear Association, said;
“This IEA report confirms that extending the operations of existing nuclear plants will support thousands of jobs and avoid more emissions per GW than other low-carbon options.
“Governments stimulus packages should also accelerate the deployment of new nuclear build, to bring immediate employment and economics benefits through policies aimed at delivering a clean energy future.”
The report says that extending the lifetimes of nuclear power plants would improve electricity security by lowering the risk of outages, boosting flexibility, reducing losses and helping integrate larger shares of variable renewables such as wind and solar PV. Additionally, extending the operation of existing nuclear plants would reduce fossil fuel imports, improve electricity security by adding to power system flexibility, and improve the affordability of electricity to consumers.
The IEA also conclude that modernising and upgrading existing nuclear facilities would avoid a steep decline in low-carbon electricity generation; new construction would further boost low-carbon generation.
The report identifies small modular reactors (SMRs) as offering the possibility of providing low-carbon nuclear power with lower initial capital investment and better scalability with the potential to provide a large number of jobs in design, manufacturing, supply and construction activities. The report recommends that governments provide investment support, foster cost-sharing agreements and supporting regulatory authorities in the validation of innovative safety features and factory assembly.
The IEA’s recovery plan also includes investment in new nuclear build. However, the report underestimates the number of new nuclear power projects ready to start construction, as well as the thousands of supply chain jobs that would be created years before construction would begin on later reactor projects.
Agneta Rising commented;
“For a sustained transition to a clean energy future, new nuclear plants must play a substantial role. With more than 100 new reactors already planned to be in operation in the 2020s, strong governmental policy support could stimulate hundreds of billions of dollars of investment and tens of thousands of jobs in the supply chain long before construction begins.
“In addition to construction, the operation phase of nuclear power plants, lasting 60 years or more, would create a large number of long-term high-skilled jobs that would particularly benefit local communities.
“This acceleration of nuclear new build would support sustainable economic growth, and would make a major contribution to the global nuclear industry’s Harmony goal, which targets 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2050.”
Source: World Nuclear Association