Nuclear power capacity needs to double worldwide over the next three decades to reach net-zero carbon emissions targets to ensure energy independence, argued the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The Paris-based group’s executive director Fatih Birol outlined that nuclear has a unique opportunity for a revival in the context of the global energy crisis, skyrocketing fossil fuel prices, energy security challenges, and climate commitments.
However, he suggested this was not guaranteed, and instead depended on government policy geared toward greater expansion.
Birol said: “It will depend on governments putting in place robust policies to ensure safe and sustainable operation of nuclear plants for years to come.”
In the group’s latest report, Nuclear Power and Secure Energy Transitions, the IEA revealed nuclear power has to be significantly ramped up to meet the twin aims of supply security and net zero carbon emissions.
It has warned that to reach net-zero emissions, nuclear power capacity has to increase to 812 gigawatts (GW) by 2050 from its current 413 GW total.
While advanced economies operate nearly 70 percent of global nuclear capacity, the IEA noted nuclear fleets across the West were aging, amid stalled investment and over-budget projects.
The IEA calculates that around 260 GW, or 63 percent, of nuclear plants in the world, are currently over 30 years old and nearing the end of their initial operation licenses.
In the 2030s, annual additions of nuclear power capacity needed to reach 27 GW just to offset closed-down power plants – which could shrink by a third over the coming decade in developed economies.
For context, the UK’s ‘big new’ bet on nuclear, which represents a historic boost in nuclear power generation, is an increase from 7GW to 24GW over the next three decades.
Hinkley Point C is expected to open within the next five years, with the Government looking to secure public funding for Sizewell C – as it targets the greenlighting of eight new reactors by 2030.
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So how could doubling nuclear capacity erase the fossil fuels' emissions and achieve net-zero emissions? Anyone who makes such a claim or believes in it must have lost his marbles.
Yet that is the type of daft claims we keep hearing from Fatih Birol the Chief of the IEA whether relating to his la-la-Land roadmap for net-zero emissions or his hyped claim that by 2025 US shale oil production at 25 million barrels a day (mbd) will be bigger than the combined Saudi and Russian production or his claim that the EU’s hasty policies to accelerate energy transition at the expense of fossil fuels aren’t to blame for the damaging energy crisis enveloping the EU since January 2021.
Yet this is exactly what Exxon CEO Darren Woods said when he warned two days ago about consumers paying for hasty energy transition.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
I respectfully disagree with the conclusion being drawn by both DR Salameh and Exxon insiders recently regarding the futility of proposed production diversification making any real difference anytime soon. This is classic oil industry propaganda and is the PRIMARY reason we are decades behind in our energy diversification initiatives and still relying on fossil fuels so heavily.
No one is disputing the continuing use of fossil fuels as a bridge fuel. However, like the natural decline of coal in our energy mix here in the US, all fossils fuels worldwide will naturally decline drastically as the world collaborates and rolls out breakthroughs in renewable technology, energy storage, modern nuclear power plants (modular and passive water cooled), advances in energy efficiency, and of course the eventual electrification of all major transportation, including heavy industry utilizing solid state batteries and fuel cell technology. Finally, the commercial viability of several important breakthroughs (solid state batteries and modern nuclear power plants) are clearly in sight. So much so that almost all major auto manufactures have declared the full transition to EVs and cities around the world are issuing an outright ban on gas powered vehicles in their cities.
We are all be better served if we stay informed in this fast changing market segment and work together to usher in the future sooner rather than later.