28 Nov (NucNet): The European Commission has published a new strategy document calling for the European Union to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with nuclear playing a role in the effort.
The EC strategy for a climate neutral Europe by 2050 recognises nuclear as one of the carbon-free energy sources in the EU’s energy mix but warns that the future of nuclear energy will largely depend on both the technological developments and the regulatory field.
The strategy forsees a 12% to 15% share of nuclear energy in power generation by 2050 as compared to about 26% today and 18% in 2030.
The document said installed nuclear capacity in 2050 will be between 99 GW and 121 GW, or “only slightly lower” than the current level of 120 GW.
The EC said nuclear can play a role in reducing the dependence on fossil fuel energy imports in Europe because nuclear fuel supply is well-diversified and fuel can be stockpiled in reserves worth 2-3 years of consumption.
The EC also said that although nuclear power could contribute to decarbonisation in member states that opt for it, nuclear investments currently remain a challenge in the EU, due to the up-front costs and lack of certainty in electricity market prices.
According to the strategy, the importance of long-term operations (LTO) is expected to increase in the coming years, and by 2030 the majority of the fleet would be operating beyond its original design life. LTO is expected to represent the majority of nuclear investment in the short to medium term, the EC said.
Overall, the EC strategy calls for 80-90% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in Europe’s electricity supply by 2050 coming from increased energy efficiency and electricity generation from renewable sources.
The share of renewables in electricity production is expected to be between 81% and 85% in 2050, compared to 57% in 2030 and 30% in 2015, the EC said. Among renewables, wind energy will represent about 56% of total generation, up from 26% in 2030 and 9% in 2015.
The EC said large-scale deployment of renewables will lead to more electrification and decentralisaition in the EU economy, with the share of electricity in final energy demand doubling by 2050.
In 2016, the EC published its latest Illustrative Programme for Nuclear Energy, known as Pinc, where it saw a 20% nuclear share in electricity generation by 2050.
The EC estimated at the time that electricity generation from nuclear will decrease by 2025 due to the phase-outs of nuclear energy in certain member states, but the trend would reverse after 2030 with generation capacity reaching between 95 GW and 105 GW by 2050.
In a recent study Brussels-based industry group Foratom said the EU needs a 25% nuclear share in electricity generation to ensure citizens and industry have access to low-carbon electricity and to reduce the economic burden of the transition to a low-carbon economy on consumers.
The study focused on three nuclear capacity scenarios by 2050: a low scenario with 36 GW of installed nuclear capacity, medium (103 GW) and high (150 GW).
Installed nuclear capacity in the EU today is around 120 GW, with 126 commercial reactor units in 14 member states.
The EC’s strategy for a climate neutral Europe by 2050 is online: http://bit.ly/2KDqswh