The IPCC 1.5C Report: nuclear energy’s role for effective action to mitigate climate change

For immediate release 8 October, 2018

The IPCC has released a special report on the impacts of climate change and what would need to be done to limit temperature rises to 1.5C.

Responding to the report, Agneta Rising, Director General, World Nuclear Association said;

"Today’s IPCC report makes clear the potential benefits of limiting climate change to 1.5C, the urgency for action to achieve this and the necessity of nuclear energy as an important part of an effective global  response."

The IPCC report concludes that achieving the 1.5C goal will require global greenhouse gas emissions to start reducing almost immediately. This will require a faster switch to electricity for energy end use and for that greater electricity demand  to be met by low-carbon generation, including nuclear. Nuclear generation increases, on average by around 2.5 times by 2050 in the 89 mitigation scenarios considered by the IPCC.

Achieving a rapid decarbonization of the electricity sector will require, at first, deploying proven technology. The report recognizes that the projected increase in nuclear generation can be realized through existing mature nuclear technology or through new options such as generation III/IV reactors and SMRs.  Generation III reactors have already come into operation in several countries.

The report notes that, historically, ‘scalability and speed of scaling of nuclear plants have been high in many nations’, noting that France implemented a programme to rapidly get 80% of its (electrical) power from nuclear. The report also notes that ‘comparative risk assessment shows health risks are low per unit of electricity production’ and land requirement is ‘lower than that of other power sources.’

The report states that nuclear economics have been improved in countries where the electricity system allows for reduced investment risks, the realisation of benefits from series build or through stable relations between regulators and industry. However, in some other countries market conditions have increased investment risks of high-capital expenditure technologies, such as nuclear. The report also notes that the current deployment pace of nuclear energy is constrained by ‘social acceptability’ in some countries.

Agneta Rising commented;

"The IPCC report highlights the proven qualities of nuclear energy as a highly effective method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as well as providing secure, reliable and scalable electricity supplies.  To maximise nuclear energy’s contribution electricity markets need to acknowledge these benefits. We also need more effective harmonized regulatory processes to facilitate significant growth in nuclear capacity and an effective safety paradigm where the health, environmental and safety benefits of nuclear are better understood and valued by society."