Decline in nuclear power to impact energy security: International Energy Agency

The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects that the share of Nuclear power in the global energy mix is expected to decline by 2040 in absence of policy support to boost investment, which in turn would have an adverse impact on the energy security and sustainability.

“Nuclear energy plays a major role in both energy security and sustainability in today’s energy mix,” IEA’s Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol said during a workshop on the role of nuclear power in the world’s clean energy system.

So far the international nuclear energy generation is said to be driven by the new nuclear reactors being constructed in China and India. Both the countries will be responsible for the 90 per cent growth in the nuclear power generation by 2040.

“However without appropriate policy attention, its contribution will shrink, creating challenges for meeting our energy policy goals in the future,” Birol observed. Globally, many countries especially in the developed world have decided to cut down on their dependence on the nuclear power in the face of opposition from general population and environmental groups. The drop in nuclear power in developed economies is estimated to be around 20 per cent by 2040.

The workshop focused on four themes: the outlook for nuclear power in advanced economies; the economic position of nuclear power in mature power markets; the role of nuclear power in power systems requiring more flexible resources; and the investment challenges for new nuclear power, including Small Modular Reactors. With limited investment in new plants, the contribution of nuclear to the power mix in mature markets is set to decline significantly if there are no policy changes.

As per the IEA statistics, declining investment, announced phase-out policies and planned retirements, combined with only 56 GW of nuclear capacity under construction in 2017, suggest that meeting the goal of 185 GW of net increase needed by 2030 will be very challenging. In many countries, nuclear power has trouble competing against other, more economic alternatives, such as natural gas or modern renewables.

“Concerns over safety and broader public acceptance also remain an obstacle to development,” the IEA says.

The IEA is preparing a special report – “Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System” that will examine these issues and develop policy recommendations. The report will be released at the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial meeting in Vancouver in May.

Last year a report released by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that nuclear power was essential if the world wanted to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees. And the share of nuclear energy in global energy mix will need to increase to meet global targets.