Russian and Chinese developments in 87% of new nuclear reactors – IEA head

A visitor (right) examines a Huaneng high-temperature gas-cooled reactor model at the China International Nuclear Power and Equipment Exhibition 2021 in Yantai, Shandong Province, China, in October. 19, 2021.

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According to the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), nuclear power can become the dominant player in the next generation clean energy market, but this will require concerted action and attention from governments and the private sector, which is not currently happening.

Meanwhile, space is dominated by Russia and China. Since 2017, 87% of new reactors put into operation use Russian and Chinese designs, the IEA executive director said. Fatih Birol said in statement on Thursday. The IEA is an intergovernmental organization based in Paris. launched in 1974 due to the oil crisis.

“Developed countries have lost their market leadership, as 27 out of 31 reactors whose construction began in 2017 are Russian or Chinese designs,” Birol said.

Nuclear power has great potential to become a major component of global energy markets as the world begins to recognize the implications of climate change, as nuclear power generation does not release greenhouse gases that cause global warming. In addition, the war in Ukraine pushed up the price of fossil fuels, making nuclear energy more attractive from an economic point of view.

“In today’s context of the global energy crisis, soaring fossil fuel prices, energy security concerns and ambitious climate commitments, I believe that nuclear power has a unique opportunity to make a comeback,” Birol said.

“However, a new era of nuclear power is by no means guaranteed,” he added.

Governments must implement policies to “ensure the safe and sustainable operation of nuclear plants for years to come” and will need to invest in new technologies, Birol said.

He also warned that in order for advanced economies to catch up with Chinese and Russian nuclear operations, companies must learn to better complete nuclear plant projects on time and on budget.

“The nuclear industry must quickly address the cost overruns and project delays that are hindering the construction of new plants in advanced economies,” Birol said.

Construction begins in the US third and fourth reactors at the Vogtle plant in Georgia became a prime example of the inability of the nuclear industry to work effectively.

Aging reactors

Cooling towers at the Dampierre-en-Burly nuclear power plant, operated by Electricite de France SA (EDF), in Dampierre-en-Burly, France on Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Falling EDF nuclear power production combined with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbates the energy crisis in Europe, as France is traditionally a net exporter of electricity.

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The existing nuclear reactor fleet in advanced economies, in particular, will be reduced by a third without intervention, which the IEA admits often requires “substantial investment.”

In the United States, the federal government is in the process of implementing $6 billion program to support existing nuclear power plants who are struggling to stay open due to financial difficulties, says the Department of Energy. The program is being paid for with money that was included in President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill.

On Thursday, the Department of Energy changed its funding application requirements and extended the deadline by 60 days to September. 6. The new rules will make it more possible to “keep the reactors running, which support the local economy and today provide our country’s largest source of carbon-free electricity.” Katherine Huffassistant secretary of state for nuclear energy at the Department of Energy said in a statement about the rule change.

Since 2013, 13 commercial nuclear reactors have been shut down early in the United States, according to the Department of Energy.

In the IEA’s plan to achieve zero emissions by 2050, nuclear power generation should double between 2020 and 2050. While nuclear power is an important part of the IEA’s plan for a global decarbonized energy future, that future is “dominated by renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. By 2050, the IEA’s nuclear power will account for 8% of the world’s total power.

The IEA’s nuclear power plan includes nuclear power technologies not yet available at scale, such as small modular reactors (SMRs), which generate about a third of the power generated by a conventional power plant.

“The lower cost, smaller size, and reduced project risks of SMRs could improve public acceptance and attract private investment,” the IEA said, while Canada, France, the UK, and the US are supporting the development of this small modular reactor technology.