Technology Roadmap: Nuclear Energy

Technology Roadmap: Nuclear Energy
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Edition: 2015
60 pages


Since the release in 2010 of Technology Roadmap: Nuclear Energy (IEA/NEA, 2010), a number of events have had a significant impact on the global energy sector and on the outlook for nuclear energy. They include the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) accident in March 2011, the global financial and economic crises that hit many industrialised countries during the period 2008-10 and failings in both electricity and CO2 markets. Despite these additional challenges, nuclear energy still remains a proven low-carbon source of base-load electricity, and many countries have reaffirmed the importance of nuclear energy within their countries’ energy strategies.

To achieve the goal of limiting global temperature increases to just 2 degrees Celsius (°C) by the end of the century, a halving of global energy-related emissions by 2050 will be needed. A wide range of low-carbon energy technologies will be needed to support this transition, including nuclear energy.
This edition of the nuclear roadmap prepared jointly by the IEA and NEA take into account recent challenges facing the development of this technology. The 2015 edition of the Nuclear Energy Technology Roadmap aims to:

  • Outline the current status of nuclear technology development and the need for additional R&D to address increased safety requirements and improved economics.
  • Provide an updated vision of the role that nuclear energy could play in a low-carbon energy system, taking into account changes in nuclear policy in various countries, as well as the current economics of nuclear and other low-carbon electricity technologies.
  • Identify barriers and actions needed to accelerate the development of nuclear technologies to meet the Roadmap vision.
  • Share lessons learnt and good practices in nuclear safety and regulation, front- and back-end fuel cycle practices, construction, decommissioning, financing, training, capacity building and communication.

Nuclear generation capacity in the 2DS by region


Figure Nuclear RM 2014

Key findings:

  • Nuclear power is the largest source of low-carbon electricity in OECD countries and second at global level. Nuclear can play a key role in lowering emissions from the power sector, while improving security of energy supply, supporting fuel diversity and providing large-scale electricity at stable production costs.
  • In the 2D scenario, global installed capacity would need to more than double from current levels of 396 GW to reach 930 GW in 2050, with nuclear power representing 17% of global electricity production.
  • The near-term outlook for nuclear energy has been impacted in many countries by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP) accident. Although the accident caused no direct radiation-induced casualties, it raised concerns over the safety of NPPs and led to a drop in public acceptance, as well as changes in energy policies in some countries.
  • However, in the medium to long term, prospects for nuclear energy remain positive. A total of 72 reactors were under construction at the beginning of 2014, the highest number in 25 years.
  • Nuclear safety remains the highest priority for the nuclear sector. Regulators have a major role to play to ensure that all operations are carried out with the highest levels of safety. Safety culture must be promoted at all levels in the nuclear sector (operators and industry, including the supply chain, and regulators) and especially in newcomer countries.
  • Governments have a role to play in ensuring a stable, long-term investment framework that allows capital-intensive projects to be developed and provides adequate electricity prices over the long term. Governments should also continue to support nuclear R&D, especially in the area of nuclear safety, advanced fuel cycles, waste management and innovative designs.
  • Nuclear energy is a mature low-carbon technology, which has followed a trend towards increased safety levels and power output to benefit from economies of scale. This trajectory has come with an increased cost for Generation III reactors compared with previous generations.
  • Small modular reactors (SMRs) could extend the market for nuclear energy by providing power to smaller grid systems or isolated markets where larger nuclear plants are not suitable. The modular nature of these designs may also help to address financing barriers.



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