World must grasp a nuclear future

Ministers from 20 countries have urged the world to look to further and significant investment in nuclear energy to drive its net zero ambitions.

Energy ministers from the nations were at the Roadmaps to New Nuclear conference, organised by the French Ministry for Energy Transition and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) in Paris, and agreed on a joint communiqué in which they highlighted the need for nuclear energy to meet global energy challenges.

They reaffirmed they are committed to nuclear energy to achieve their net zero emission targets and agreed on a number of guiding principles to increase momentum in their nuclear new build projects.

Delegates said nuclear energy is already a key part of the pathways to net zero in many countries, and it can play a much larger role, both through the continued operation of existing installations and the large-scale construction of new nuclear power plants.

This will require significant international co-operation, in particular to unlock access to financing, to harmonise and enable policy and regulatory frameworks, to support research and development, and to foster stable supply chains, including for nuclear fuel. Achieving these goals will depend on the further training of a skilled workforce and continued public engagement through transparent, inclusive and responsible democratic decision-making processes.

In the communicate the ministers said: “The future of nuclear energy is now. The current global and geopolitical context has underlined more than ever the importance of ensuring resilient, stable, decarbonised and secure energy supplies.

“Security of energy supplies and affordable prices for people and businesses are top priorities on the agenda of leaders around the world as well as reaching the climate objectives established by the Paris Agreement. Nuclear energy already plays a significant role in meeting climate goals and can play an even larger role in achieving global net zero emissions by 2050, consistent with the 1.5°C scenario and with the Paris Agreement.

“This ambitious objective can be realised through continued operation of existing nuclear power plants under the highest safety standards and large-scale deployment of new nuclear power plants.”

It added: “Achieving global net zero will require a significant increase in efforts in energy efficiency and energy savings, and the maximum use of all zero and low emissions energy sources towards achieving net zero outcomes, including both nuclear energy and renewable energy, to deliver both energy security and economic prosperity.

“Nuclear power is a safe, affordable, dispatchable, and one of the low and zero-carbon energy sources that has contributed to the decarbonisation of our economies for more than half a century and which currently supplies over 10% of global electricity consumed.

“Securing the needed increase in global nuclear energy will require strategic international collaboration among like-minded governments as well as public-private partnerships and industry leadership. Governments, and industry must act now to create the best conditions for success, including enabling policy frameworks, regulatory pathways that accelerate innovation, supply chain readiness, diversified fuel availability, public engagement, and promoting financing.”

It added nuclear energy is a means to provide affordable energy that reduces dependence on fossil fuels, helps address the climate crisis, provides jobs and growth, strengthens global energy security while providing baseload energy and grid flexibility.

“Responding to ongoing geopolitical threats to energy security by accelerating deployment of nuclear energy as a source of stable and resilient power and heat in support of the diversification,” it continued.