5 Oct (NucNet): Europe should maintain at least the current capacity of nuclear generation up to and beyond 2050, which will involve the commissioning of more than 100 nuclear reactors over the next 35 years, the Brussels-based industry group Foratom has said.
Foratom said major investments will be required in nuclear new build, lifetime extension and safety upgrades, fuel cycle operations, decommissioning and waste management.
It also called on the European Commission to provide a stable regulatory and investment framework for nuclear projects, improve the harmonisation of nuclear regulation across the EU, and address “existing market failures” in many member states to help ease the burden of high up-front capital costs for nuclear.
Foratom said there should be an effective carbon price in the EU linked to a well-functioning emission trading scheme, or ETS.
The commissioning of the estimated 100 new nuclear units would deliver 122 gigawatts of nuclear capacity between 2025 and 2045. “Altogether, we can expect at least 14 EU member states to be operating nuclear power plants in 2050,” Foratom said.
According to the European Union, there are 130 nuclear reactors in commercial operation in 14 EU member states.
Foratom made the comments in a statement after submitting a position paper to the EC on the planned publication of a revised version of the “Illustrative Programme for Nuclear Energy” (Pinc). The EC is mandated to periodically issue a new Pinc to indicate targets and programmes for nuclear production and any necessary investment.
Since the publication of the last Pinc in 2007, the situation for nuclear power has “changed considerably” both within the EU and globally, Foratom said.
The financial crisis, the Fukushima-Daiichi accident and the tensions in Ukraine have all had an impact on the energy sector as a whole as well as on the nuclear sector. Nevertheless, global interest in nuclear power is growing and there are 67 reactors under construction around the world – more than there have ever been.
In its position paper Foratom urges the EC to apply “a technology neutral approach” to energy policy, which will encourage investment in all low-carbon technologies including nuclear, and provide a stable regulatory and investment framework.
The position paper highlights the actions needed on energy market design to restore confidence among potential investors. “There should be no discrimination between technologies that deliver low-carbon energy, and full account should be taken of system costs,” Foratom said.
Foratom called for assurances that the EC and relevant EU member states are supportive of nuclear projects in the long-term. Given that new nuclear projects are capital intensive and take a long time to begin generating income, developers should be given assurances that the EC and governments are supportive of projects long enough to enable investments to be recuperated, Foratom said.
Energy market price signals, especially an effective carbon price linked to an ETS, can contribute to encouraging investments in low-carbon technologies. A durable market design should be based on the principle of equally promoting all low-carbon technologies, including nuclear, and should ensure clarity over future investments.
Foratom said the EU should facilitate nuclear development projects by providing “a stable regulatory and investment framework given the importance of nuclear power for achieving the EU’s climate action goals”. Confidence needs to be built among equity investors in nuclear power projects to maintain Europe’s leadership role in nuclear technology and innovation.
Advanced nuclear reactor technology, including Generation IV, should be provided with adequate funding for development and demonstration at EU level, taking into account the EU potential in terms of human and financial resources.
On regulatory risk, Foratom said there is a need for better harmonisation of regulations across the EU for the licensing of nuclear technology and for obtaining environmental consents. This would enable nuclear vendors and supply chain companies to compete more effectively in the international market.
“Capital intensive projects, like nuclear energy, require regulatory certainty and efficiency for their prompt completion,” Foratom said.
Foratom said the EC should encourage nuclear regulatory bodies represented at The European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (Ensreg) and the Western European Nuclear Regulators’ association (Wenra) to accelerate the harmonisation of regulatory requirements to reduce the barriers to deployment of nuclear technologies in the EU member states.