Nuclear power in a clean energy system

Venue: UIC-P Espace Congrès, 16 rue Jean Rey, 75015 Paris, FRANCE

Dates: 25 February 2019

Organiser: IEA 

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The International Energy Agency (IEA), which has been recognised as the global energy authority, advocates policies to enhance the reliability, affordability and sustainability of energy in its 30 member countries and beyond.  The IEA covers the full spectrum of energy, including oil, gas and coal supply and demand, renewable energy, electricity markets, energy efficiency and all key energy technologies including nuclear power.

The IEA is preparing a special report, “Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System” which will be launched at the Tenth Clean Energy Ministerial meeting to be held in Vancouver, Canada in May 2019.  To provide input for this special report, the IEA will host a workshop in Paris on 25 February 2019.

Since its initial commercial use in the 1950s, nuclear power has become an important part of the global energy landscape, now supplying 10 percent of the world’s electricity. It has been a leading low-carbon source of electricity (alongside hydropower), helping to avoid more than 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year on average.

However, the future role of nuclear power in advanced economies is uncertain. 

On the one hand, the fleet of existing plants is ageing – over three-quarters are more than 25 years old – and a wave of retirements is potentially on the horizon. Though lifetime extensions are a potential option, these plants are challenged by heightened safety requirements, policy constraints and, in some markets, economic pressures and public opposition. As for new reactors, there are few under construction in advanced economies and prospects for further policy support is uncertain, especially as the falling costs of renewables has shifted the attention of policymakers.

On the other hand, nuclear can play an important role in fighting climate change. It already helps to reduce a large amount of CO2 emissions. Moreover, most analyses on the low carbon transition, including those of the IEA, emphasize the expanding role of nuclear in a clean energy system.

The future of nuclear production in advanced economies raises a number of questions for policymakers: What is the outlook for existing nuclear power? How long can existing plants be expected to remain in the market under current economic conditions? How can and should nuclear plants contribute to overarching environmental, policy and energy independence goals and what policies or measures are being used to ensure they do so? Will nuclear plants find new life as a flexible resource to offset the varying output from rapidly growing wind and solar power? What investment models for new nuclear plants can be put in place given the financial risks? What risk mitigation strategies might be reasonable and sustainable?

This workshop will bring together technical experts, policymakers, academics, and other thought leaders to discuss the future of nuclear power in clean energy systems. It will be informal in nature and held under Chatham House Rule. Attendance is by invitation only.

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