Nuclear one of the lowest cost low-carbon options, according to new IEA/OECD NEA study 

Issued 9 December 2020

Electricity generation from nuclear power plants is the dispatchable low-carbon technology with the lowest expected costs, according to the Projected Costs of Electricity Generation 2020 report, published today by the International Energy Agency and OECD Nuclear Energy Agency.

According to the report, extending the operations of existing reactors is highly competitive. It remains not only the least cost option for additional low-carbon generation, but for all power generation across the board.

Dr Sama Bilbao y León, Director General, World Nuclear Association said, “Investing in extending the life of the current fleet of nuclear reactors should be a no-brainer.  First, it is the lowest cost electricity option, second it can make an immediate and significant contribution to job creation in the context of the post-COVID economic recovery, and third - and just as important - many countries will have a hard time meeting their decarbonization targets without the contribution of existing nuclear plants.

The cost of electricity from nuclear generation is lower in the new 2020 report than in the previous edition, published in 2015. This shows that the nuclear industry is moving forward with the lessons learned from recent projects and is managing to strengthen the know-how and supply chains required for successful project completion.

For new-build nuclear generation the estimated long-term cost of generating electricity (LCOE) is lower than that for coal. While gas-fired generation is currently competitive, this would not be the case if the cost of the resultant carbon emissions were properly taken into consideration, or if gas power plants were required to include carbon capture and storage of their emissions.

The report concludes that generation costs from new nuclear power are competitive with other low-carbon options, particularly when the system costs of higher shares of intermittent generation are included. Under such circumstances the reports Value Adjusted LCOE (VALCOE) for nuclear is almost unaffected, whereas solar PV suffers from a significant reduction in value when the share of intermittent renewables in the generation mix is higher.

Dr Sama Bilbao y León remarked, “Achieving carbon neutrality will require deep decarbonization of the electricity generation sector. While electricity systems have largely been able to accommodate the rising share of variable renewable generation to date, further increasing their share will bring significant challenges with regards to reliability, stability, resilience and cost. Nuclear generation will continue to have a vital role in ensuring system stability in a cost effective, low-carbon generation mix.


World Nuclear Association is the international organisation that represents the global nuclear industry. Its mission is to promote a wider understanding of nuclear energy among key international influencers by producing authoritative information, developing common industry positions, and contributing to the energy debate, as well as to pave the way for expanding nuclear business.

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