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IEA head backs nuclear’s “major comeback” for green goals


18 Sept 2023 14:42




18 Sept 2023 14:42

(Montel) The “major comeback” of nuclear is positive for climate change but operators must improve the delivery of projects within time and budgetary limits, International Energy Agency head Fatih Birol said on Monday.

He pointed to energy security being the key factor leading countries to invest in nuclear programmes, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine pushing European countries to seek to develop domestic sources of energy.

The IEA head saw nuclear power as an “integral part” of the response to climate change, in countries where it was “acceptable”.

“It is a historic time for the nuclear industry. The ball is in the court of industry leaders to deliver on time and within costs,” Birol said. 

“Unfortunately, many players have a reputation of not delivering projects on schedule and within costs.”

Many European countries have seen a resurgence of pro-nuclear policy, with the notable exception of Germany, which closed its three remaining reactors in April.

French president Emmanuel Macron has led a U-turn in nuclear policy, scrapping a plan to close 12 reactors by 2035 and vowing to build at least six new European pressurised reactors (EPRs), with the first unit due to come online in 2035.

In June, the Belgian government decided to extend the lifetime of its Tihange 3 and Doel 4 reactors (1 GW each) by 10 years to 2035 or 2036, to ensure supply.

Finland also launched its Olkiluoto 3 reactor (1.6 GW) in April, 14 years behind schedule, while Sweden and Italy elected pro-nuclear governments last year. 

Further afield, Birol saw China overtaking the US as the largest nuclear power in the world in the next five years, as the country continues to lead in nuclear capacity additions, with two large reactors completed in 2022.

Strong renewable growth
The IEA head also saw the global growth in clean energy “moving faster than many people realise”, as it was cheaper than fossil fuels.  

“This year, we expect 80% of all power plants built globally to be renewable,” he said, with solar investments set to beat investments going into oil.

“This is a good trend, but there are still many hurdles to reach climate targets.” 

“The most important one is the lack of international collaboration among key countries,” he said, adding that the biggest responsibility was on the shoulders of the US and China – the world’s largest carbon emitters.

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