Invest in nuclear to succeed in the post-COVID recovery and the journey towards carbon neutrality

29 May 2020

Earlier today the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the UK Government co-hosted a Ministerial Roundtable on Mobilising Investments for Secure and Sustainable Power Systems. This examined the short and longer term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the electricity sector and what the crisis means for evolving opportunities and risks facing power sector investments.

Developing socially equitable and affordable decarbonization, whilst preserving and developing national employment, should be at the core of all revitalization plans. Nuclear energy can play a key role in the post-COVID strategic recovery by boosting economic growth. It supports - in a cost-effective manner - the development of a low-carbon, resilient electricity infrastructure and creates jobs and economic development in the long-term.

Speaking during the meeting Jean-Bernard Lévy, CEO of EDF, highlighted the potential contribution of new nuclear, with each GW of nuclear capacity eliminating 2 to 4 times more emissions than equivalent capacities of other electricity technologies. This is thanks to its reliability and high capacity factors.  A new nuclear project would also be good for employment, he said, with construction of an EPR creating about 4,600 skilled jobs. It would boost the economy, particularly for local industries. 

Nuclear power has been an important source of power flexibility in Europe during the current pandemic, as highlighted recently by the IEA in its Global Energy Review 2020.

Mark Menezes, Undersecretary of Energy for the United States government emphasised that reliable, resilient, carbon-free baseload power continues to be important, noting that the world won’t reach its clean energy goals without nuclear. IEA analysis, he said, had shown that lifetime extensions of existing reactors are the lowest cost low-carbon source of additional generation.

Commenting on the many speeches heard during the Ministerial Roundtable, Agneta Rising, Director General of World Nuclear Association, said, “The global nuclear industry is ready to do its part to make sure we come out of this pandemic stronger, cleaner and more resilient than ever before.

“Nuclear energy can play a key role in the post-COVID recovery by boosting economic growth, creating jobs and supporting the development of a cost-effective, low-carbon, resilient electricity infrastructure. There is a window of opportunity for governments to support the many new nuclear build projects already planned.

“Nuclear power must be included in the journey towards carbon neutrality. If not, there will be threats to the security of supply, and the transition towards a low-carbon future will be considerably more expensive. The electricity system of the future must take into account the full costs and benefits of different forms of generation."