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 per cent of global nuclear capacity, the IEA noted nuclear fleets across the West were ageing, amid stalled investment and over-budget projects.
The IEA calculates that around 260 GW, or 63 per cent, 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.