For a second successive year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has revised up its annual projections of the potential growth of nuclear power during the coming decades, reflecting a shift in the global debate over energy and the environment amid growing concerns over energy security and climate change.
In its new outlook for global nuclear capacity for electricity generation by 2050, the IAEA has increased its high case scenario by 10 percent compared with last year’s report.
In its high case scenario, the agency now sees world nuclear generating capacity more than doubling to 873 gigawatts net electrical (GW(e)) by 2050, compared with current levels of around 390 GW(e). That’s an additional 81 GW(e) on top of last year’s projection. In the low case scenario, generating capacity remains essentially flat.
“We are at a defining moment in the world’s transition to a more secure,
stable and affordable energy future,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said.
“Driven by the impacts of climate change and the energy crisis, governments are reconsidering their portfolios in favour of nuclear power. But for the high case scenario to be achieved, a number of challenges need to be addressed, including regulatory and industrial harmonisation and progress in high level waste disposal.”
The annual outlook identifies climate change mitigation and energy security as key drivers of decisions to continue or expand the use of nuclear power, citing recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions and military conflict in Europe as having impacted the reliability of energy systems, impeded energy flows across regions and led to significant increases in energy prices.
While a large number of reactors are scheduled for retirement in the coming years, aging management programmes and long term operation are being implemented for an increasing number of existing reactors, with new policy measures being adopted to support their competitiveness in liberalised electricity markets.
The 42nd edition of Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050 provides detailed global trends in nuclear power by region.
The report’s low and high estimates reflect different scenarios for the worldwide deployment of nuclear power. The low and high estimates reflect contrasting, but not extreme, scenarios. They provide a plausible range of nuclear capacity development by region and worldwide.
According to the new projections and assuming electricity generation will increase by 85 percent over the next three decades, nuclear energy could contribute about 14 percent of global electricity by 2050, up from its 10 percent share today.