The world needs more nuclear energy to provide electricity for growing populations while curbing carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA).
In fact global nuclear energy capacity “must more than double” by 2050 in order for atomic power to supply 17% of global electricity and meet certain climate change benchmarks.
Nuclear power is a critical element in limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and a new ‘Technology Roadmap’ co-authored by the IEA and the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) outlines the next steps for growth in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan and the economic crisis and its effect on financing.
IEA announced the document on its website Jan. 29. The 64-page publication finds that the prospects for nuclear energy remain positive in the medium to long term despite a negative impact in some countries in the aftermath of the accident.
While nuclear power’s share of global electricity generation was 10% lower in 2013 than in 2010, principally because of Japan’s 48 operable reactors remaining idle, it is still the second-largest source worldwide of low-carbon electricity. And the 72 reactors under construction at the start of last year were the most in 25 years.
Yet global capacity must more than double, with nuclear supplying 17% of global electricity generation in 2050, to meet the IEA 2 Degree Scenario (2DS) for the most effective and efficient means of limiting global temperature rise to the internationally agreed maximum.
In the wake of Fukushima, steps must be taken to restore public confidence in nuclear power, according to IEA.
Nuclear energy’s attractiveness lies in how it allows countries to build scalable, efficient and long-term power sources that can serve as a base to underpin other forms of low-carbon generation.
Even if a limited number of countries have decided to phase out nuclear power, many more have set ambitious development programs. For example, China plans to have a net 58 GW in nuclear capacity by 2020, up from 17 GW in 2014, with a further 30 GW under construction then. But under the 2DS, total nuclear capacity should be 250 GW in 2050.
The report also looks at options such as small modular reactors. Major impediments to capital-intensive nuclear power are tightened financial markets, especially following the recent global economic crisis, and shortcomings in deregulated electricity markets.
IEA is an autonomous organization that works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 29 member countries and beyond. Founded in response to the 1973-74 oil crisis, the IEA’s initial role was to help countries co-ordinate a collective response to major disruptions in oil supply through the release of emergency oil stocks to the markets.
The U.S., Canada, and many of their allies are members of IEA. Countries must be net oil importers in order to be members of IEA.