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IEA/OECD Report Concludes Nuclear Power Could Provide 24% of Global Electricity by 2050

Almost one-quarter of global electricity could be generated from nuclear power by 2050, making a major contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Nuclear Energy Technology Roadmap, published by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). Such an expansion will require nuclear generating capacity to more than triple over the next 40 years, a target the roadmap describes as ambitious but achievable.

Nuclear generating capacity worldwide is presently 370 gigawatts electrical (GWe), providing 14% of global electricity. In the IEA scenario for a 50% cut in energy-related CO2 emissions by 2050 (known as the “BLUE Map” scenario), on which the roadmap analysis is based, nuclear capacity grows to 1,200 GWe by 2050, providing 24% of global electricity at that time. Total electricity production in the scenario more than doubles, from just under 20,000 TWh in 2007 to around 41,000 TWh in 2050.

Nuclear energy is one of the key low-carbon energy technologies that can contribute, alongside energy efficiency, renewable energies and carbon capture and storage, to the decarbonization of electricity supply by 2050.

—IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka

The roadmap finds that nuclear power is a mature, low-carbon technology that is ready to expand rapidly over the coming decades. The latest reactor designs, now under construction around the world, build on more than 50 years of technology development. The roadmap notes that these designs will need to be fully established as reliable and competitive electricity generators over the next few years if they are to become the mainstays of nuclear expansion after 2020.

Main designs for Nuclear Power Plant Deployment by 2020
  • Westinghouse AP-1000, advanced pressured water reactor (APWR, about 1,200MW capacity
  • AREVA EPR, also an APWR, 1,600-1,700 MW
  • GE Hitachi ABWR (advanced boiling water reactor), 1,300-1,600MW
  • GE Hitachi ESWBR, 1600 MW
  • Mitsubishi Heavy APWR, 1,500MW
  • Rosatom VVER-1200, PWR, 1,100MW
  • Atomic Energy of Canada ACR (Advanced CANDU Reactor), 1,200MW
  • Korea, APR-1400, PWR, 1,340MW
  • China, CPR-1000, based on AREVA Gen II design, 1,000MW
  • India PHWR (pressurized heavy water reactor),540-700MW

No major technological breakthroughs will be needed to achieve the level of nuclear expansion envisaged, the roadmap finds. The obstacles to more rapid nuclear growth in the short- to medium-term are primarily policy-related, industrial and financial. However, continuous development of reactor and fuel cycle technologies will be important if nuclear energy is to achieve its full potential in competition with other low-carbon energy sources, the report finds.

The roadmap sets out an action plan with steps that will need to be taken by governments, industry and others to overcome these. A clear and stable policy commitment to nuclear energy as part of overall energy strategy is a prerequisite, as is gaining greater public acceptance for nuclear programs.

Progress in implementing plans for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste will also be essential. The international system of safeguards to prevent proliferation of nuclear technology and materials must be maintained and strengthened where necessary.

Financing the construction of new nuclear plants is expected to be a major challenge in many countries. In some cases, governments may need to support nuclear investment through measures such as loan guarantees until nuclear power programs are well-established. The industrial capacities and skilled human resources necessary to build, operate and maintain nuclear plants will also need to be increased over the next few years if nuclear is to expand rapidly.

Concepts for Gen IV Systems
  • Sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR)
  • Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR)
  • Super-Critical Water-cooled Reactor (SCWR)
  • Gas-cooled Fast Reactor (GFR)>
  • Lead-cooled Fast Reactor (LFR)
  • Molten Salt Reactor (MSR)

For the longer term, the continued development of reactor and fuel cycle technologies will be important for maintaining the competitiveness of nuclear energy. Technologies now under development for next-generation nuclear systems potentially offer improved sustainability, economics, safety and reliability. Some could be suitable for a wider range of locations and to new applications beyond electricity production, for example to provide industrial heat. Such systems could start contributing to energy supply before 2050.

The Nuclear Energy Technology Roadmap is the result of joint work by the IEA and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and is one of a series being prepared by the IEA in co operation with other organizations and industry, at the request of the G8 summit at Aomori (Japan) in June 2008. The overall aim is to advance development and uptake of key low-carbon technologies needed to reach the goal of a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050.




According to the World Nuclear Ass, the current level is 15% nuclear with 436 Nuke power plants. There are 8 new plants in construction and 90 in advanced planning phase. This does not seem to include the 120 new reactors planned to be built in China. Since the new reactors are larger units (1500 to 1700 MW) the potential nuclear power production would be raised to about 3O% of the total. China is the large country with the highest percentage of power from coal fired plants. The 120 Nukes planned would help to change the situation there.

With the arrival of 2+ B electrified vehicles, the world would need 200 to 400 new large nuclear plants (to double or triple current Nuke capacity) + 10x current Wind turbines + 20x current Solar power in order to close most polluting coal fired power plants by 2050.

With the availability of very cheap coal and the known desire to maximize profits at all cost, coal fired power plants make grow even faster in many countries if national and international regulations do not put a stop to it.


There is the not inconsiderable risk here of BIG industry developing advanced US nuclear energy technology that might be locally built and even exported or licensed abroad.

The resurgence of evil US industrial might is unlikely but we must be ever vigilant.

If such technology cannot be stopped, we must ensure crippling approval processes are improved and implemented, damage and injury insurance must meet stringent government standards (but approval will be withheld until the standards are themselves approved) and of course all design and labor must be done by unionized service workers, management, engineers and laborers.

Of course any industry can always be federalized .

You know; I don’t think we have anything to worry about.


@HarveyD What is the link between 2 Billion EVs, 400 Nuclear plants and replacing most coal fired plants?

The DoE says the US grid can handle 85M EVs right now with current capacity BECAUSE EVs charge over-night when generation capacity is massively under utilized. The story is the same the world over so EVs are not any added burden for quite some time into the future (I dare you to predict what year 85M EVs will be on US roads).


Paul: I agree with you that the first 50+ M EVs can be recharged at night without overloading the networks. However, the total e-energy effectively used will increase by about 10 to 12 KWh/day/EV, i.e. about 600 Million Kwh/day and that will progressively grow towards 3,600 million Kwh/day over the next 30/40 years as USA transitions from ICE to EVs. To satisfy this large extra load, more fuel will have to be used to produce more electricity. USA's nuclear plants are already being used at 90+% and that is considered the maximum possible. Nobody wants more coal fired power plants but 100+ NG power plants + Solar + Wind could easily supply the extra e-energy required for up to 300 M EVs by 2040/2050?. Some thirty years @ 10 M EVs average a year would do it.


100 million EVs all taking just 1 kW during the night would require 100 gW of power generation. I suppose just running the base load generation flat out all night would do it, but hundreds of nuclear and coal plants running full bore 24/7 is not my idea of a wonderful new world.

If we can bring on geothermal, wind and stored solar maybe it would be a cleaner charging scenario. Building many more nuclear plants does not seem like the way to go, but putting 4 kW of solar PV on roofs and battery banks in the garage does. If we do it the right way, the situation can get a lot better, but the wrong way can make it much worse.


Harvey's overstating the energy demand by about 2x. The average commute is around 20 miles; at 300 Wh/mi, that's 6 kWh/day, or about 500 W average over 12 hours.

If we manage to get to 10% PHEVs by model year 2016, that would be about 1.5 million new vehicles * 0.5 kW = 0.75 GW of new night-time demand each year. If we get to 100% by 2021, that's about 15 million * 0.5 kW = 7.5 GW/yr. We're already adding enough new wind energy (not nameplate capacity, actual generation) to meet the 2016 number today, and by the time the nuclear build gets going we'll have enough carbon-free electrons in time to handle whatever the 2021 figure turns out to be.

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