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IEA Official: Nuclear Must Remain In The Mix To Meet Global Carbon Goals

nuclear plant

The abandonment of plans to build or upgrade nuclear facilities in the United States and Europe could prevent the international community from meeting its reduced carbon emissions targets, according to an official from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In both the United States and the European Union, nuclear energy is the largest low-carbon source of energy. IEA data shows that nuclear produces three times more power than wind and solar energy combined in both regions, with most production coming from plants built more than three decades ago, Reuters reported.

"The ageing of the nuclear fleet is a considerable challenge for energy security and decarbonization objectives," IEA Chief Economist Laszlo Varro told Reuters on the sidelines of the Eurelectric utilities conference this week.

The rapid decommissioning of nuclear plants in the past decade – a 20 percent total loss in capacity - has negated some of the effects of the global shift towards low-carbon or no carbon emissions energies.

"This is just a taste of things to come," Varro said in Portugal.

While Russia, India, and China continue to pursue nuclear power, Japan, the U.S., and Europe have become hesitant to commission new projects after the 2011 Fukushima incident.

"If we do not keep nuclear in the energy mix and do not accelerate wind and solar deployment, the loss of nuclear capacity will knock us back by 15 to 20 years. We do not have that much time to lose," Varro said.

American nuclear plants have also struggled to compete with facilities equipped to run on cheap shale gas from the Bakken and Permian basins. In other cases, the ongoing construction of nuclear plants went over budget, discouraging financiers from funding future projects.

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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