Saturday, May 16, 2015

Nuclear Power Will Play Only a Modest Role in Stopping Climate Change, Nuclear Agency Says

A journalist checks radiation levels at stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The 2011 disaster, which will cost Japan over $100 billion, set back the nuclear industry worldwide. (Photo Credit: AP) Click to Enlarge.
Nuclear power can play a modest, but important, role in avoiding catastrophic global warming — if it can solve its various problems including high construction cost without sacrificing safety.

That is the conclusion of a comprehensive 2015 Technology Roadmap from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).  It is also what I’ve been arguing on Climate Progress for a long, long time.

The IEA is the global body responsible for energy analysis, and one of the few independent agencies in the world with a sophisticated enough energy and economic model to credibly examine in detail the role of various low carbon technologies in a 2°C scenario (2DS) aimed at averting catastrophic global warming. The NEA was set up by the industrialized OECD countries “To assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”

Here is what the IEA and NEA project is a plausible though “challenging” pathway for the nuclear energy industry in a carbon constrained 2DS world — if it can get its act together:

The IEA and NEA project nuclear could rise from its current 11% of world electricity capacity to 17% in 2050 in a carbon constrained world. (Click to enlarge.)

Because it is a low-carbon source of around-the-clock (baseload) power, a number of scientists and others have called for a reexamination of nuclear policy. The Chinese in particular have been building nuclear power plants at a steady pace. Yet very few new plants have been ordered and built in the past two decades in countries with market economies, such as the United States, which derives a fifth of its power from nuclear. That is primarily because new nuclear plants are so costly, but also because dealing with the radioactive nuclear waste remains problematic and the costs of an accident are so enormous.

Read more at Nuclear Power Will Play Only a Modest Role in Stopping Climate Change, Nuclear Agency Says

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