IEA: Nuclear Power Decline Could Challenge Energy Security

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By Tsvetana Paraskova

The share of nuclear power generation in the global energy mix is set to decline through 2040 if there is no policy support to promote investment, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

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

“However without appropriate policy attention, its contribution will shrink, creating challenges for meeting our energy policy goals in the future,” Birol noted.

The contribution of nuclear power to the global power mix in mature markets is set for a significant decline under current policy frameworks, as there are limited investments in new plants construction, the IEA said.

Under the Paris-based agency’s New Policies Scenario, nuclear power production grows as two developing economies, China and India, are responsible for more than 90 percent of net growth to 2040. However, outside of Japan, nuclear power generation in mature economies is seen dropping by 20 percent by 2040.

“This decrease will be far greater if expected investments in plant life extension or new facilities do not take place,” the IEA said.

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 agency says.

According to the IEA’s Tracking Clean Energy Progress tracker on nuclear power, the latest available data shows that in 2017, new nuclear power capacity dropped sharply to only 3.6 GW. In addition, construction starts, a proxy for final investment decisions, remained low.

“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,” according to the IEA.

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