Speaking at a press event held this week, World Nuclear Association (WNA) Director General Agneta Rising issued a call to action for governments, expert bodies and the nuclear industry.
“We need to do more,” she said at the event, which took place at the London-based WNA Symposium. “Urgent action is needed to ensure that nuclear energy can make the full contribution that society requires to meet its future energy needs.”
Rising noted that while the nuclear industry’s aim of supplying 25 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050 is “achievable,” it will require the construction of 1,000 GWe of new nuclear capacity. For that to happen, capacity will have to be added at rates not seen since the 1980s.
Continuing, she said that even the upper scenario laid out in the WNA’s recently released Nuclear Fuel Report will not allow that goal to be met. In the upper scenario, which would see governments and companies meet the plans they have made for nuclear generation, “global capacity is projected to reach 625 GWe” by 2035. That’s compared to 482 GWe in the middle-of-the-road reference scenario.
To go beyond the upper scenario and add 1,000 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2050, Rising believes nuclear generation will have to increase at a much faster pace. And for that to happen, action is required in three key areas:
- Nuclear energy must be recognized as a low-carbon energy resource — “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,” said Rising. “A key component of this is that nuclear energy must be included along all other low-carbon technologies.”
- The health and safety benefits of nuclear energy must be considered — Rising commented, “[w]e 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.”
- Regulatory processes must be harmonized worldwide — For her last recommendation, Rising said, “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,” said Rising. She added that if those three changes are made, nuclear build rates will increase to 35 GWe a year, up from 10 GWe in 2015 and 2016. “This would allow the target of 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2050 to be met.”
Rising believes that the main obstacle to meeting that target is “not in production, but in securing policy support” — hence her call to governments, as well as expert bodies and the nuclear industry. “We need to do more,” she reiterated at the end of her speech.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Charlotte McLeod, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.