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Role of nuclear in a low-carbon Europe updated study published

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According to a report produced by Compass Lexecon, a future low-carbon system based on variable renewables (vRES) will require the backup of additional flexible capacity. In this respect, nuclear provides a key competitive advantage as it is the only dispatchable, low-carbon and non-weather dependent technology which can support the energy system transition under secure conditions.

“According to the report, not only would the early closure of nuclear power plants trigger an increase in consumer costs, it will also result in negative environmental impacts,” said FORATOM Director General Yves Desbazeille. “These include an increase in CO2 emissions and other air pollutants, higher raw material usage and greater land use impacts.”

According to the report, the early closure of nuclear would

  • Lead to increased CO2 emissions by 2025, thus hampering the increased 2030 climate mitigation ambition;
  • requires new thermal capacities in order to ensure security of supply, triggering an increase in air pollutants as follows:
    • SO2: 7.7% increase in total SO2 emissions over 2020-2050
    • NOx: 7% increase in NOx emissions over 2020-2050
    • Particulate Matter (PM): 12% increase in total PM emissions over 2020-2050
  • require new solar and wind capacities in order to meet environmental objectives, which would generate an estimate derived from the literature of 9890 km2 of additional land requirements or 7% of total land use between 2020-2050.

Furthermore, nuclear has the lowest raw material footprint of all large-scale, low-carbon energy technologies.

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Based on the assessment, FORATOM has identified the following policy recommendations:

  • Recognition of the fact that nuclear energy is an affordable solution which will help the EU to achieve its climate ambitions and ensure security of supply.
  • Avoid the early closure of nuclear power plants as this risks derailing long term decarbonisation goals.
  • Subject all low-carbon technologies to the same robust and scientific assessment to ensure a sustainable transition.
  • Develop a market design which supports all low-carbon technologies
  • Recognise the contribution of nuclear to a sustainable hydrogen economy

The report takes into account the following developments:

  1. As a result of Brexit, all of the European Commission’s new long-term scenarios now focus on the EU27.
  2. The EU’s updated decarbonisation targets for both 2030 (with an increase from 40% GHG emission reductions to at least 55%) and 2050 (from 80 to 95% GHG emission reductions to net zero emissions).

The European Atomic Forum (FORATOM) is the Brussels-based trade association for the nuclear energy industry in Europe. The membership of FORATOM is made up of 15 national nuclear associations and through these associations, FORATOM represents nearly 3,000 European companies working in the industry and supporting around 1,100,000 jobs.

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