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Press Release: How can nuclear energy contribute to delivering the COP21 Paris CO2 reduction goals?


22 MAY 2017



How can nuclear energy contribute to delivering the COP21 Paris CO2 reduction goals?

NNWE hosted a briefing meeting in Prague to coincide with the 12th European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF) Plenary Meeting. Top of the agenda was the stark reality that the EU and member state governments must act now to support new nuclear build if decarbonisation targets are to be met.

The meeting heard that if no action is taken the EU-28 will be woefully short of the forecast level of nuclear capacity required to deliver decarbonisation of the electricity generation sector. Filling the gap with other low carbon solutions would increase costs by a startling €50 billion, at least compared to the most pessimistic nuclear cost projections. If fossil fuels were used to bridge the gap instead, CO2 emissions would increase by over 100 million tonnes a year.

Tim Yeo, Chairman of NNWE, stressed the importance of nuclear energy in delivering CO2 reduction goals: “Nuclear is the only reliable source of low carbon energy, without which decarbonisation targets simply cannot be met”.

“The question is not whether we can afford new nuclear, but whether we can afford not to have new nuclear. It is clear that the EU and member state governments must act now”.

The meeting brought together a range of stakeholders from the civil nuclear sector to discuss the importance of nuclear energy in meeting domestic, European, and global climate change objectives.

Speaking at the meeting, Lenka Kovačovská, Deputy Minister for Energy within the Czech Republic Ministry of Industry and Trade, commented: “For Central Europe, nuclear energy is a key tool enabling us meeting our decarbonisation objectives in a cost effective way, without compromising our energy security. When measuring its relative cost-effectiveness with other low-carbon sources, especially renewables, we have to take into account all the associated costs for operating the electricity system, including ancillary services and – in case of massive RES deployment – short-term and seasonal storage costs. Construction of new nuclear power plants will not only help us meet our climate targets and energy security objectives but also maintain and enhance capabilities of our industry.” 

With the Paris Agreement signalling a step change in the fight against climate change, the role of nuclear energy has been rightly recognised as one of the key solutions to reducing emission levels, whilst ensuring security of supply. However, action must be taken. The IEA’s recent report, Tracking Clean Energy Progress, sends a strong message to policy makers recommending clear and consistent policy support for existing and new nuclear capacity if nuclear is to play its full role in delivering decarbonisation targets at the regional and global level.

The situation in the EU-28 is particularly alarming. If the current combination of market and regulatory forces persist, around one-third of the current nuclear fleet will be lost. Against current reference scenarios around 34GWe of nuclear new build is needed by 2030. Today, only 4GWe is under construction and the 12GWe that is ‘firmly planned’, such as Hinkley Point in the UK and Paks in Hungary, is under attack from anti-nuclear groups and governments. The remaining 18GWe is on hold due to political and/or financial uncertainty.

Tim Yeo commented: “The current situation in the EU needs addressing, it is evident that the EU projects in the pipeline are impossible without foreign investment. Only vendors from Russia, China and South Korea seem to offer competitive technology-finance packages enabling final electricity prices to remain within the reasonable range of €55-75/MWh.”

“The EU should revisit its set of policies to encourage foreign investment in nuclear, not discourage it”.

Also speaking at the meeting, Petr Závodský, Director Nuclear Power Plants Construction for ČEZ, said: “Nuclear power covers more than 50% of the carbon-free electricity in EU and therefore it will not be possible to meet CO2 reduction targets without nuclear power in the future. The Czech Republic, regardless of savings and renewables, has only two real options for replacing lignite, namely nuclear or gas. So, taking into account CO2 limits and dependence on imported gas, only the nuclear option can help to deliver energy security and decrease CO2 emissions.”

The discussion then turned to how pro-nuclear European nations can work together to enhance post-Paris and post-Brexit co-operation within the nuclear industry.

Tim Yeo commented: “The EU, one of the foremost arbiters of the climate change agreement, is coming under increasing pressure from powerful anti-nuclear member states within its borders. It is time to give serious consideration to NNWE’s proposal to establish the Organisation for Nuclear Cooperation in Europe (ONCE), a pro-nuclear club of countries comprising EU member states and neighbouring countries, with the twin aims of greater energy security and a clearer path to a low carbon future”.