Nuclear Politics

Foratom / ‘Long-Term Operation Of Reactor Fleet To Help EU Meet Climate Goals At Affordable Cost’

By Kamen Kraev
10 July 2019

‘Long-Term Operation Of Reactor Fleet To Help EU Meet Climate Goals At Affordable Cost’
Foratom calculation on the share of low-carbon electricity generation with (light blue) and without (dark blue) LTO and renewables (green).
The long-term operation (LTO) of the domestic nuclear reactor fleet will help the European Union achieve its climate goals at an “affordable cost”, while also reducing energy import dependency, Brussels-based industry group Foratom has said.

In a position paper published today, Foratom said experts increasingly recognise that the decarbonization of the power sector cannot be achieved with renewables alone - nuclear will have to play a role, if the world is to reach its CO2 reduction targets by 2050.

Foratom said the LTO of the existing nuclear fleet will have a significant impact on the EU’s ambition to decarbonise its economy, an effort which will require using all low-carbon sources.

“The intermediate decarbonisation targets in the transition towards 2050 cannot be achieved without the LTO of existing nuclear power plants”, said Yves Desbazeille, Foratom’s director general.

He said: “In fact, if the EU were to invest in maintaining a fully operational nuclear fleet over this period, 58% of its electricity would come from low-carbon sources by 2030 – making it the global leader on climate change policy. If not, the share would drop to 38%, increasing the cumulative emissions by around 1,500 million tonnes of CO2 by 2030.”

According to Foratom, LTO is economically advantageous compared to other power sources, because it requires a much lower capital investment cost, leading to low investment risks for investors and capital markets, and lower consumer costs.

LTO also reduces the EU’s energy import dependency on fossil fuels, provides reliability to the grid, and helps the industry maintain and upgrade the competences of operators and suppliers, Foratom said.

Foratom’s position paper puts forward several recommendations to policy makers to support LTO in the EU: ensuring the existence of a coherent, consistent and stable EU policy framework; agreeing on an ambitious net-zero CO2 emissions target for the EU in 2050; developing and implementing a strong industrial strategy to make sure the EU maintains its technological leadership; supporting human competences development.

Last year, Foratom said European policy makers should “recognise and reward” nuclear energy with incentives for the benefits it brings to the energy system.

Foratom said at the time that according to the European Commission’s Nuclear Illustrative Programme (PINC) nuclear power is expected to play a significant role in the EU’s energy mix up to 2050. Foratom said this would need investment in nuclear LTO of around €40-50bn by 2050.

Foratom quoted the EC as saying that there are up to 50 nuclear reactor units at risk of early closure over the next 10 years, assuming their operators do not pursue LTO permits.

Today there are 126 nuclear reactor units in commercial operation in 14 EU member states, providing more than a quarter of the bloc’s electricity production.

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