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Nuclear

Nuclear power has historically been one of the largest global contributors of carbon-free electricity and while it faces significant challenges in some countries, it has significant potential to contribute to power sector decarbonisation.

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Key findings

Nuclear power capacity additions and retirements in selected countries and regions by decade in the Net Zero Scenario

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A new dawn for nuclear energy?

Amid today’s global energy crisis, reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels has become the top energy security priority. No less important is the climate crisis: reaching net zero emissions of greenhouse gases by mid-century requires a rapid and complete decarbonisation of electricity generation and heat production. Nuclear energy, with its 413 gigawatts (GW) of capacity operating in 32 countries, contributes to both goals by avoiding 1.5 gigatonnes (Gt) of global emissions and 180 billion cubic metres (bcm) of global gas demand a year.

While wind and solar PV are expected to lead the push to replace fossil fuels, they need to be complemented by dispatchable resources. As today’s second largest source of low emissions power after hydropower, and with its dispatchability and growth potential, nuclear – in countries where it is accepted – can help ensure secure, diverse low emissions electricity systems.

Global nuclear power capacity additions in the Net Zero Scenario, 1971-2030

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Global nuclear capacity needs to expand about 10 GW per year to 2030z

In 2021 nuclear power capacity declined by almost 3 GW globally, as newly completed reactors were not able to compensate for over 8 GW of retirements. Emerging market and developing economies accounted for all the new capacity while the majority of these permanent shutdowns were in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, which are all G7 members.

Nuclear power is an important low-emission source of electricity, providing about 10% of global electricity generation. For those countries where it is accepted, it can complement renewables in cutting power sector emissions while also contributing to electricity security as a dispatchable power source. It is also capable of producing low-emission heat and hydrogen. More efforts are needed to get nuclear power on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario.

Cumulative CO2 emissions avoided by global nuclear power in selected countries, 1971-2018

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Nuclear power can play an important role in clean energy transitions

Nuclear power has avoided about 55 Gt of CO2 emissions over the past 50 years, nearly equal to 2 years of global energy-related CO2 emissions. However, despite the contribution from nuclear and the rapid growth in renewables, energy-related CO2 emissions hit a record high in 2018 as electricity demand growth outpaced increases in low-carbon power. In the absense of further lifetime extensions and new projects could result in an additional 4 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions, underlining the importance of the nuclear fleet to low-carbon energy transitions around the globe.

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Our work

The ESEFP TCP provides a platform for scientists and engineers to exchange information and further enhance the collaboration, coordinating international efforts to bridge the scientific and technical gaps between the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) and DEMO (a proposed nuclear fusion power station that is intended to build upon the ITER experimental nuclear fusion reactor), and supporting governmental policies and raising awareness of fusion energy developments and potential to the general public.

The scope of the FM TCP covers materials needed to meet the requirements of structural, thermal management, fuel breeding and processing, and neutron economy of fusion systems. Relevance and application of the results of this work range from meeting the needs of existing plasma physics devices, through International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), and DEMO (a proposed nuclear fusion power station that is intended to build upon the ITER experimental nuclear fusion reactor) stages of fusion development, to the application of advanced materials in fully mature fusion power plants serving the base energy needs of society.

The NTFR TCP is a collaborative programme on the research and development of nuclear technology of fusion reactors, a priority area for fusion energy. The TCP focuses on technologies of components located close to the fusion plasma and subjected to high-energy neutron irradiation, in particular tritium production and processing, energy extraction, radiation shielding and components such as the first wall, blanket, shield and plasma facing components.

The PWI TCP conducts research to understand the phenomena of interaction between the plasma and the chamber walls and to develop relevant wall materials for applications in fusion power.

The RFP TCP aims to advance the development of fusion power through research on the Reversed Field Pinch (RFP) magnetic configuration. The three members of the RFP TCP co-ordinate RFP experiments, and can share equipment and computational tools, as well as supporting staff exchanges.

Created in 2007, the ST TCP aims to enhance the effectiveness and productivity of fusion energy science and technology by strengthening co-operation among spherical torus research programmes and facilities; contributing to and extending the scientific and technology database of toroidal confinement concepts to the spherical torus physics regime; and providing a scientific and technological basis for the successful development of fusion power using the spherical torus.

The strategic objective of the SH TCP is to improve the physics base of the Stellarator concept and to enhance the effectiveness and productivity of research by strengthening co-operation among member countries.

The CTP TCP supports the development of fusion energy by contributing to the physics basis of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), and DEMO (a proposed nuclear fusion power station that is intended to build upon the ITER experimental nuclear fusion reactor) design optimisation. The CTP TCP provides a forum for tokamak programmes of the ITER Members to co-ordinate tokamak research by carrying out scientific and technological exchanges, holding workshops and meetings for the purpose of advancing the tokamak concept in the context of fusion energy, and supporting ITER physics and technology needs.