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Russian and Chinese projects 87% of new nuclear reactors: head of the IEA

The visitor (right) learns about a model of a high-temperature gas-cooled huaneng reactor at the China International Exhibition of Nuclear Energy and Equipment 2021 in Yantai, Shandong Province, China, October 19, 2021.

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According to the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), nuclear energy may become the dominant player in the next-generation clean energy landscape, but it will require concerted action and concentration from governments and private industry, which is not happening now.

For now, Russia and China dominate the space. Since 2017, 87% of new reactors that have been started have used Russian and Chinese designs, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said on Thursday. The IEA is an intergovernmental organization based in Paris that was created in 1974 after the oil crisis.

“Countries with developed economies have lost market leadership, as 27 of the 31 reactors that began construction in 2017 are developed by Russia or China,” Birol said.

Nuclear energy has a great opportunity to become an important component of global energy markets, as the world is aware of the effects of climate change, as nuclear power generation does not emit greenhouse gases that cause global warming. In addition, the war in Ukraine contributed to the increase in fossil fuel prices, which made nuclear energy more economically attractive.

“In today’s context of a global energy crisis, skyrocketing fossil fuel prices, energy security challenges and ambitious climate commitments, I believe nuclear power has a unique opportunity to make a comeback,” Birol said.

“However, a new era for nuclear energy is by no means guaranteed,” he added.

Governments need to pursue policies to “ensure the safe and sustainable operation of nuclear power plants for years to come,” Birol said, and they will need to invest in new technologies.

He also warned that in order for countries with developed economies to catch up with Chinese and Russian nuclear production, companies must better implement projects to build nuclear power plants on time and within budget.

“The nuclear industry must quickly address the problems of cost overruns and project delays that are hindering the construction of new plants in advanced economies,” Birol said.

In the United States, the construction of the third and fourth reactors at the Vogtle plant in Georgia was a striking example of the nuclear industry’s inability to operate efficiently.

Aging reactors

There are nuclear power reactors in 32 countries, and 63% of the power generation capacity of this global fleet of nuclear reactors is accounted for by plants that have been around for at least three decades. That’s because much of the construction of nuclear power plants was a response to the oil shocks of the 1970s, according to the IEA.

Cooling towers at the Dampierre-en-Burly nuclear power plant, operated by Electricite de France SA (EDF), in Dampier-en-Burley, France, on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. The fall of EDF nuclear production combined with the Russian invasion of Ukraine exacerbates the energy crisis in Europe, as France has traditionally been a net exporter of electricity.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The existing fleet of nuclear reactors in developed economies will shrink by a third without intervention, which, as the IEA recognizes, often requires “significant investment”.

In the United States, the federal government is implementing a $6 billion program to support existing nuclear power plants that are struggling to stay open due to financial difficulties, according to the Department of Energy. The program is paid for with money that was included in President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law.

On Thursday, the Department of Energy changed its application requirements for the funds and extended the deadline by 60 days to September 6. The new rules will make it more possible to “keep the reactors online that support local economies and provide our nation’s largest source of carbon-free electricity today,” Kathryn Huff, the Energy Department’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy, said in a statement about the rule change.

Since 2013, 13 commercial nuclear reactors in the U.S. have shut down early, the Department of Energy said.

The IEA’s plan for the world to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 calls for nuclear power generation to double between 2020 and 2050. While nuclear power is a critical part of the IEA’s plan for a global decarbonized energy future, this future “dominated by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy. By 2050, according to the IEA, nuclear energy will account for 8% of total global energy.

The IEA’s nuclear power plan includes nuclear power technologies that are not yet available on a scale, such as small modular reactors (SMRs), which generate about a third of the energy of a conventional power plant.

“The lower cost, smaller size and reduced design risks of SMRs can improve social acceptance and attract private investment,” the IEA said, with Canada, France, Britain and the United States supporting the development of the small modular reactor technology.

Russian and Chinese projects 87% of new nuclear reactors: head of the IEA

Source link Russian and Chinese projects 87% of new nuclear reactors: head of the IEA

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