Nuclear power could fall by as much as two-thirds in developed nations by 2040 absent policy support and more investment, making it vastly harder to keep global warming in check, a new International Energy Agency report warns.
Why it matters: Nuclear is cumulatively the biggest zero-carbon power source in the nations IEA examined, which include the EU, the U.S. and Japan. A "significant" amount of this lost nuclear generation would be replaced by gas (and some coal) despite the surge in renewables, IEA said.
The big picture: The report is the latest to show how nuclear power is likely needed to help with the uphill climb of holding global temperature rise below 2°C.
Threat level: If nuclear drops by two-thirds, "cumulative CO2 emissions would rise by 4 billion tons by 2040, adding to the already considerable difficulties of reaching emissions targets."
- The report arrives as long-running plants are shutting down and the pipeline of expensive new projects is small.
The intrigue: Building new plants is really expensive. But losing nuclear is even more costly, IEA argues.
- "Without widespread lifetime extensions or new projects, electricity supply costs would be close to USD 80 billion higher per year on average for advanced economies as a whole," it states.
What's next: The report calls on regulators to extend operation of decades-old plants at risk of shutting down due to licenses ending or competitive pressures. It also has proposals to help spur new development.
- Recommendations include various changes in market rules to better make continued operation of aging plants more attractive.
- New projects can be made more likely and less risky with a combination of policies like price guarantees, carbon pricing, government-backed financing and more support for small modular reactors.