The agency said in a report on clean energy that in 2018, 11.2 GW of additional nuclear capacity were connected to the grid, the largest increase since 1989. New projects were launched representing over 6 GW, and refurbishment projects are underway in many countries to ensure long-term operation of the existing fleet.
Nevertheless, more efforts in terms of policies, financing and cost reductions are needed to maintain existing capacity and bring new reactors online.
Under current trends, nuclear capacity in 2030 would amount to 497 GW, compared with 542 GW under the agency’s “sustainable development scenario. This scenario includes meeting goals such as the 2015 Paris Agreement, which calls for the increase in the global average temperature to be kept well below 2C above pre-industrial levels.
“At least a doubling of the annual rate of capacity additions is therefore required,” the IEA said.
The agency warned that nuclear energy policy remains uncertain in many countries as governments try to reconcile political pledges, public opinion, climate objectives and energy supply security.
The report said nuclear is a key source of low-carbon power, but given the uncertain future for nuclear in many countries, the world faces a steep decline in its use, particularly in advanced economies. This could result in an even greater call on wind and solar PV, and addition investment of $1.6 trillion.
“Without an important contribution from nuclear power, the global energy transition will be that much harder,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.
“Alongside renewables, energy efficiency and other innovative technologies, nuclear can make a significant contribution to achieving sustainable energy goals and enhancing energy security.”