The world will need to build 1 000 new nuclear reactors to meet global energy demand by 2050, World Nuclear Association (WNA) Harmony Programme adviser Jeremy Gordon said at AtomExpo, in Sochi, Russia, on Monday.
He added that nuclear power was in the past 25 years growing at the fastest rate ever and that demand for electricity was increasing; however, the energy sector is struggling to keep up with demand.
Despite the acceleration in growth in nuclear energy capacity, nuclear energy’s share of the global energy market has decreased from 14% to 10%.
Gordon suggested that if nuclear energy’s share of the electricity market were to increase to 25% by 2050, it would help to balance the expanding need for human development with that of the natural environment, while assisting with the introduction of other low-carbon technologies.
“An increased share of all low-carbon energy sources, as well as greatly reduced use of fossil fuels, can work together in harmony to ensure a reliable, affordable and clean future energy supply,” he argued.
Gordon pointed out that the WNA’s Harmony Programme provided the framework for action for the nuclear industry to deliver its potential.
He added that changes were needed across every aspect of the nuclear power sector to remove barriers to growth.
Gordon stressed that a level playing field in energy markets that optimised low-carbon energy resources that were already in place, and drove investment in future clean energy, where nuclear energy is treated on equal opportunity basis with other low-carbon technologies and recognised for its value in a reliable energy mix, was key to a functioning and resilient low-carbon energy mix.
He added that it was important to ensure harmonised regulatory processes to provide a more consistent, efficient and predictable nuclear licensing regime, which would facilitate significant nuclear capacity growth, without compromising safety and security.
“A harmonised nuclear process means that, if you build a nuclear power plant in one country, you should be able to build the same power plant in another country with minimum paperwork,” he explained.
Gordon further commented that it was important to create an effective safety paradigm focusing on genuine public wellbeing, where the health, environmental and safety benefits of nuclear were better understood and valued when compared with other energy sources.
“It’s about the joint conversation of safety and public acceptance. To be a successful nuclear operator, you have to be safe and you need public acceptance. Without it, you won’t be operational for long,” he said.
Gordon, meanwhile, noted that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached 400 parts per million on a monthly average and was accelerating.
“Globally, we are not on track to transition to low-carbon [energy],” he noted.
He pointed out that current commitments to curb carbon dioxide emissions were also not on track to deliver on the Paris Agreement goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels, stressing that “urgent action and greater ambition is needed.”
“Avoiding dangerous levels of climate change requires at least 80% of electricity to be supplied from low-carbon sources, up from a level of 34% today,” Gordon noted.
*Anine Killian is attending the AtomExpo in Russia as a guest of Rosatom.