IAEA: Nuclear to continue to play key role in low-carbon energy production

September 18, 2020, 10:02AMNuclear News

The International Atomic Energy Agency has just released its latest projections for energy, electricity, and nuclear power trends over the next 30 years. Compared with the previous year, the new projections are largely unchanged.

In the report's high-case scenario, the IAEA expects a rise in global nuclear electrical generating capacity of 82 percent, to 715 gigawatts. In the low-case scenario, that capacity is expected to drop 7 percent, to 363 gigawatts.

The report is titled Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050.

What they’re saying: “The latest IAEA annual projections show that nuclear power will continue to play a key role in the world’s low-carbon energy mix, with global nuclear electrical capacity seen nearly doubling by 2050 in our high-case scenario,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi on September 16. “Climate change mitigation remains a key potential driver for maintaining and expanding the use of nuclear power.”

Zooming in: The 137-page report provides detailed global trends in nuclear power by region: North America; Latin America and the Caribbean; Northern, Western, and Southern Europe; Eastern Europe; Africa; Western Asia; Southern Asia; Central and Eastern Asia; Southeastern Asia; and Oceania. Projections for nuclear electrical generating capacity are presented as low and high estimates, reflecting different scenarios for the worldwide deployment of nuclear.

From 2019 to 2050, global electricity generation is expected to more than double, exceeding nuclear generation capacity growth, even in the high-case scenario. IAEA experts therefore expect nuclear’s share of power generation among all sources of electricity either to remain stable or decline. In 2019, the report notes, nuclear generated 10.4 percent of global electricity.

According to the IAEA, immediate and concerted action is required for nuclear power to reach a share of 11 percent in electricity production by 2050, as seen in the report’s high-case scenario. In the low-case scenario, the share of nuclear energy relative to global electricity production could decline to about 6 percent.

Commitments made under the 2016 Paris Agreement on climate change and other initiatives could support nuclear power development, provided the necessary energy policies and market designs are established to facilitate investments in dispatchable, low-carbon technologies, the report says. It adds that nuclear power could provide solutions for electricity consumption growth, air quality concerns, the security of energy supply, and the price volatility of other fuels.

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