Nuclear Politics

Europe / Bloc Needs To Retain Nuclear As It Bids For Net Zero, New Analysis Shows

By David Dalton
30 March 2022

Reactors can help reduce reliance on Russian gas ‘in next 12 months’
Bloc Needs To Retain Nuclear As It Bids For Net Zero, New Analysis Shows
The European Union’s most feasible, cost-effective pathway to net-zero by 2050 is to retain existing carbon-free energy sources including nuclear and bring all available low-carbon technologies online, analysis commissioned by climate group Carbon-Free Europe shows.

The analysis says the chances of reaching emissions goals for individual countries and the EU increase as more clean technology and fuel options, such as carbon capture, direct air capture, hydrogen, and nuclear power, are included as viable mitigation options. This increased “optionality” reduces risk and makes it more likely that clean energy will be cost-effective and net zero goals can be achieved.

The analysis also shows that to reduce dependence on Russian gas in the next 12 months the EU must maximise its existing clean energy from its fleet of 107 nuclear power plants in 13 countries.

The optimal energy mix to achieve net zero goals would require the EU to make the investments and scale infrastructure to generate 20% of its electricity from nuclear – compared to about 26% today – 18% from offshore wind, 27% from onshore wind, and 27% from solar, and 8% other resources like biomass, geothermal, and hydro by 2050.

Pursuing a 100% renewable energy strategy would cost the EU at least €80 bn more a year by 2050 and require the EU to quadruple its electricity generation compared to a tripling in other net-zero pathways.

Using every low- and zero-carbon resource to get to net zero would also help the EU insulate itself from persistently high natural gas prices and significantly increase its energy sovereignty, the analysis shows.

Jacopo Buongiorno, director of the centre for advanced nuclear energy systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said the study confirms that deep decarbonisation of Europe’s electricity sector is feasible, but neither easy nor cheap. “It suggests that a diverse portfolio of clean energy technologies, including a large share of nuclear energy, is key to success,” he said.

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