Call for Action on Nuclear Energy

Press Release Issue Date: 14 September 2017

World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising today called on governments, expert bodies and the nuclear industry to do more to ensure that nuclear energy can make the full contribution that society requires to meet its future clean energy needs.

Agneta Rising was speaking at a press event held during the World Nuclear Association Symposium, the leading annual global nuclear industry conference.

The full text of Agneta Rising’s speech follows:

The world is not on track to provide reliable and affordable electricity to our global population, while meeting our environmental targets. Access to electricity remains out of reach to hundreds of millions of people. Nearly two years ago, at the Paris climate change conference, governments pledged to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees, but the actions they set out will barely limit the temperature rise to three degrees.

We need to do more.

Nuclear power is a proven source of reliable, cost effective and clean power with significant public benefits. In 2015 and 2016 twenty new nuclear power plants started supplying electricity. Around 10 GW of new nuclear capacity was added to the grid in each year. This is a higher amount than seen over the preceding 25 years. Nuclear generation has increased every year for the last four years.

But our Fuel Report projections, released today, suggest that, unless action is taken, the pace of growth in nuclear generation will slow. Under our reference case the projection for 2035 is 482 GW.  The upper scenario, where governments and companies succeed in meeting their declared plans for nuclear, global capacity is projected to reach 625 GW.

The nuclear industry has set a goal to supply 25% of the world’s electricity by 2050, which will means the construction of 1000 GW of new nuclear capacity. This expansion of nuclear capacity is achievable, requiring new nuclear build at rates the industry achieved in the 1980s.

But even our upper scenario would not be enough to meet this climate goal. Nuclear needs to do more.

Action is required in three key areas to enable nuclear generation to grow at a faster rate. This will require reform of energy markets, regulation and our perception of safety to make it possible.

In many countries electricity markets are failing to deliver the energy choices needed to meet our long term goals. 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. A key component of this is that nuclear energy must be included along all other low-carbon technologies. As the only near zero-emission generating resource that can be scaled to meet actual demand, nuclear power must also receive recognition and compensation for its contribution to system reliability and for other public benefits.

We 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.

And 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.

If action is taken in these three key areas it would enable nuclear build rates to ramp up to 35 GW a year. This would allow the target of 1000 GW of new nuclear capacity by 2050 to be met.

This is a challenging but achievable target. It would only require annual nuclear new build rates to increase by three-four times current levels, much lower than the scale of expansion needed for other low carbon generation options. However, the main challenges are not in production, but in securing policy support.

Nuclear generation has been providing low carbon electricity for more than sixty years. It provides large scale and reliable supplies of clean electricity.

Today I’m issuing a call for action – to governments, to expert bodies, to our industry. We need to do more. Urgent action is needed to ensure that nuclear energy can make the full contribution that society requires to meet its future energy needs.

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