Developed countries, which have been gradually reducing their nuclear power generation, may lose one quarter of their nuclear capacity by 2025 and two thirds - by 2040, a Paris-based international organization said in a report on Tuesday.
"The future of nuclear power is uncertain as ageing plants are beginning to close in advanced economies, partly because of policies to phase them out but also as a result of economic and regulatory factors," the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its report, headlined ‘Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System.’ "Without policy changes, advanced economies could lose 25% of their nuclear capacity by 2025 and as much as two-thirds of it by 2040."
The sharp decline in the nuclear power generation sector will damage the energy security of those nations and will hamper the achievement of the goals, set by the Paris agreement on climate change, TASS quoted the international organization as saying.
According to IEA, nuclear energy at present is the world’s second-largest low-carbon power source, accounting for 10% of global electricity generation. It is second only to hydropower at 16%. For advanced economies, such as the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan, nuclear has been the biggest low-carbon source of electricity for more than 30 years and remains so today. It plays an important role in electricity security, accounting for about 18% of their total energy output.
The decision not to extend the life span of existing nuclear plants and the lack of new projects could result in an additional 4 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions, experts warn.
"A sharp decline in nuclear power capacity in advanced economies would have major implications. Without additional lifetime extensions and new builds, achieving key sustainable energy goals, including international climate targets, would become more difficult and expensive," the report says.
The Paris Climate Agreement, signed at the COP 21 UN Climate Change Conference in the French capital on December 12, 2015, sets a goal of keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial average by 2100. Scientists believe that a more significant rise in global temperatures can lead to irreversible environmental effects. The deal came into effect on November 4, 2016.
According to the agency, the United States has some 90 reactors with 60-year operating licenses, but some of them have already retired early and many more are at risk. In Europe and Japan, extensions of plants’ lifetimes also face "uncertain prospects."
"Investment in new nuclear projects in advanced economies is even more difficult. New projects planned in Finland, France and the United States are not yet in service and have faced major cost overruns," the report says.
"Korea has been an important exception, with a record of completing construction of new projects on time and on budget, though government policy aims to end new nuclear construction," it continues.
IEA says that replacing nuclear energy with solar and wind projects may require about $1.6 trillion in investment within the next 20 years, which will inevitably affect electricity prices.
"If other low-carbon sources, namely wind and solar PV, are to fill the shortfall in nuclear, their deployment would have to accelerate to an unprecedented level. In the past 20 years, wind and solar PV capacity has increased by about 580 gigawatts in advanced economies. But over the next 20 years, nearly five times that amount would need to be added," IEA said. "Such a drastic increase in renewable power generation would create serious challenges in integrating the new sources into the broader energy system."
"Clean energy transitions in advanced economies would also require $1.6 trillion in additional investment over the same period, which would end up hurting consumers through higher electricity bills," it said.