Ahead of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, where one of the key topics will be accelerating the transition from coal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has released a new special report highlighting the critical role of nuclear power in in reaching the goals of the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development by displacing coal and other fossil fuels, enabling the further deployment of renewable energy and becoming an economical source for large amounts of clean hydrogen.
Nuclear Energy for a Net Zero World lays out the reasons why nuclear must have a seat at the table whenever energy and climate policies are discussed. Nine countries—Canada, China, Finland, France, Japan, Poland, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom—provide statements supporting the report.
In his foreword to the report, IAEA Director General Mariano Grossi says that "over the past five decades, nuclear power has cumulatively avoided the emission of about 70 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) and continues to avoid more than 1 Gt CO2 annually. As we head toward (COP26), it is time to make evidence-based decisions and ramp up the investment in nuclear. The cost of not doing so is far too high to bear."
Over the past five decades, nuclear power has cumulatively avoided the emission of about 70 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) and continues to avoid more than 1 Gt CO2 annually
The report demonstrates that nuclear power is vital for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring 24/7 energy supply, and also that it is well suited to replace coal and other fossil fuels while also providing heat and hydrogen to decarbonize industry and transportation.
This publication also outlines how nuclear power can be a significant driver of economic growth, generating jobs in many sectors and enabling a just transition to clean energy. Nuclear power, with a 10% share of global electricity generation, already provides over 800 000 jobs. International Monetary Fund estimates show that investments in nuclear power generate a larger economic impact than those in other forms of energy, placing it among the most effective actions for a sustainable economic recovery as well as the transition to a resilient net zero energy system.
The IAEA report demonstrates that nuclear power is vital for achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring 24/7 energy supply
Nuclear power’s partnership with renewables will be key to driving emissions to net zero, according to the report. Because it is dispatchable, low emission, flexible and reliable, nuclear power can underpin net zero energy mixes based on electricity, while also helping to lower the costs of the overall electricity generating system.
Non-power sectors including steel, cement and chemical production, shipping and air transport—which together account for around 60% of energy-related global emissions—will require the deployment of heat or energy carriers such as hydrogen, which must be produced with a low carbon footprint. Nuclear energy can provide low carbon heat and be used to produce hydrogen, particularly with high-temperature reactors currently under development.
The IAEA recommends a series of actions aimed at accelerating the wider deployment of nuclear power
The publication recommends a series of actions aimed at accelerating the wider deployment of nuclear power, including:
- Introduce carbon pricing and measures to value low-carbon energy.
- Adopt objective and technology neutral frameworks for low carbon investments.
- Ensure markets, regulations and policies value and remunerate nuclear energy’s contribution to reliable and resilience low-carbon energy systems.
- Boost public investment and support for private investment in nuclear power, including reactor lifetime extensions, as part of “green deal” and recovery packages.
- Promote diversified electricity systems to mitigate climate risks to energy infrastructure, ensuring the continuity and quality of electricity services.