NEA issues call to action in report on nuclear cost reductions

July 6, 2020, 10:52AMNuclear News

A new report from the Paris-based OECD Nuclear Energy Agency declares that nuclear power is needed for countries to meet their Paris Agreement decarbonization and energy security policy goals, but that governmental support for a rapid reduction in the cost of new nuclear capacity through the creation of certain policy frameworks is likely necessary.

The 134-page report, Unlocking Reductions in the Construction Costs of Nuclear: A Practical Guide for Stakeholders, notes that according to the International Energy Agency’s Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), new nuclear capacity will be needed in addition to ambitious lifetime extension programs for existing nuclear plants. According to the report, in 2019, nuclear power was not on track to reach the required output. In fact, the rate of annual capacity additions would need to at least double between 2020 and 2050 to meet the SDS target.

What they’re saying: "Our analysis verifies that high costs and project schedule overruns are not an inherent characteristic of nuclear technology, but are a reflection of weak supply chains and a lack of recent nuclear construction experience in western OECD countries,” said NEA Director-General William Magwood during the report’s online launch on July 2. “Nuclear energy can make substantial contributions to both the post‑COVID‑19 economic recovery and the world’s long‑term environmental goals if costs are in line with market needs. Our new report provides compelling evidence for highly achievable pathways to dramatic cost reduction in nuclear new build. Cost reductions are already taking place in some parts of the world, and higher levels of industrial and regulatory harmonization could bring additional long‑term benefits. Industry still has much to do, but the leadership and timely action by governments is essential.”

Energy Systems Catapult’s Mike Middleton, chair of the NEA expert group that took the lead in preparing the report, added: “For those countries that wish to include the nuclear option in their electricity mix, there is a clear window of opportunity to support significant near‑term cost reductions and increase the predictability of large nuclear projects by leveraging on lessons learnt from past projects. Every new project is an opportunity to improve the constructability of the design, refine the associated delivery processes, and reduce perceived construction risks.”

Zooming in: The report focuses on potential cost and risk reduction opportunities for Generation III reactor designs that could be realized in the short term and that are also applicable to small modular reactors and advanced reactor concepts for deployment in the longer term.

The NEA identifies eight cost‑reduction drivers that can be exploited at different stages of nuclear construction, including government support for robust and predictable market and financing frameworks, as well as policy support mechanisms for design maturity and regulatory stability. Implementing these cost‑reduction drivers, the report says, should also lessen the technological, organizational, and regulatory risks associated with new nuclear plant deployment.