Achieving 1000 GWe of new capacity by 2050

16 September 2016

The nuclear industry can achieve the momentum required to create an additional 1000 GWe of new capacity by 2050, Agneta Rising, director general of the World Nuclear Association, said yesterday. This target is essential, she said, if the world is to ensure the International Energy Agency's 2 Degree Scenario on climate change.

Opening the World Nuclear Association's 41st Annual Symposium in London, Rising referred to the IEA's annual report, Energy Technology Perspectives 2016, which notes that connections of new nuclear power units doubled in 2015 to ten new reactors each year compared with five in 2014 and similar numbers in previous years.

Only nuclear power can ensure the clean, affordable and reliable electricity needed to meet increasing global energy demand whilst ensuring climate goals can also be achieved, Rising said.

She proposed the following schedule: 50 GWe of new capacity in 2016-2020, 125 GWe in 2021-2025 and 825 GWe in 2026-2050. That means a yearly connection rate of 10 GWe, 25 GWe and 33 GWe, respectively.

Facts and myths

"Nuclear energy is the world's second largest energy source now and for those countries with low emissions, nuclear is a key part. No country in the world has decarbonised without using nuclear energy," Rising said.

"It is quite a big task to deliver 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2050. So this is the plan: in the coming five years we need to deliver 10 GWe and in years after that have to step up to a 25 GWe connection rate per year. And in the last 25 years there needs to be an around 33 GWe per year connection rate. You can roughly say that 1 GWe is one large reactor," she said.

"In the last 25 years we have been below a five and sometimes down to a zero connection rate," she noted. "In 2015 it doubled to 10 GWe, but we need to double again and then again."

In the mid-80s, some 31 GWe of new nuclear capacity were delivered and connected each year, she noted. "I am so sure that we can do better now. We have more technologies, more experience, more companies and a lot of need to have this low-carbon electricity that is so reliable."

The Association's World Nuclear Performance Report 2016 shows there have been "a lot of reactor start-ups in the last 12 months in different parts of the world, including China, India, the USA, South Korea and Russia", Rising said.

"Altogether they are delivering a connection rate of 11.3 GWe and the target for this period is 10 GWe, so already in the first year now we are delivering on that target. But there is much to do if we are going to ramp this up," she said.

And construction periods are getting shorter. "Even in the industry, I hear people say that nuclear has long construction times. No. Construction times are coming down. There has been a 5.5 year average construction time for last five years. Of course there are examples where there have been big delays - delays in decision making and delays in construction, but overall, on average, it's a very great result," she said.

In addition, each reactor built is delivering more and more electricity, she said. "The capacity factor - what you deliver compared to what you are constructed to deliver - is climbing up. In the 80s, it was about 60% and now it is around 80%." These percentages are based on the International Atomic Energy Agency's Power Reactor Information System, or PRIS, database, which includes Japanese reactors even though they are not in operation currently. "That means, if you look at the reactors that are running - the capacity factor is above 80%," Rising said. "If you look at many of the other energy sources, I don't think there is any that has such high capacity factors as nuclear. For example, solar and wind have a capacity factor of 10-15% on average."

Rising also dispelled the myth that old nuclear reactors are not as efficient and new technology, explaining that maintenance and upgrade work over the years has increased their capacity factor to the same high level. "And when you have a new reactor, it has that high capacity factor from the start," she said.

Sweden, Rising's home country, is a good example of "how quickly a country can ramp up nuclear", she said. This fact dispels the myth that "small countries cannot do nuclear", she said. The United Arab Emirates is also proving that a small country can rapidly build nuclear capacity, she added.

Regarding the levelised cost of electricity, including the system cost, Rising said that Nuclear Energy Agency data for France, the UK, the USA and South Korea show that, "in nearly all of these cases nuclear is the cheapest".


To achieve 1000 GWe of new capacity, the industry must address the three pillars of the World Nuclear Association's Harmony initiative, which Rising presented for the first time at the 2015 Symposium. These are a level playing field, harmonised regulatory processes and an effective safety paradigm.

A level playing field for all low-carbon technologies would value not only the environmental qualities of an energy source, but also its reliability and grid system costs.

Markets should be reformed to, Rising said, to support capital investments, include grid system costs, eliminate nuclear-only taxes, reform subsidies, give credit for low-carbon emissions, value 24/7 reliability and support innovative finance solutions.

A level playing field for nuclear cannot be achieved as long as power markets are distorted, Rising said, with low wholesale prices reflecting renewables that are supported by subsidies. Current gas prices may be low in the USA, but this does not reflect the cost of emissions that fossil fuelled plants account for, she added.

There also needs to be enhanced standardisation; streamlined licensing processes; harmonised and updated global codes and standards; the enabling of international trade; as well as efficient and effective safety regulation. In addition, nuclear innovation requires the development and timely licensing of new technologies.

Nuclear power development has been hindered, Rising said, by national energy policies that are not aligned. She gave nuclear taxes in Sweden and Belgium as an example of this.

The safety paradigm means increasing genuine public wellbeing from a societal perspective, Rising said. It also means ensuring global nuclear safety and confidence in the management of nuclear technology and operations.

"The alternatives to nuclear are far more dangerous - even including accidents," Rising said. Citing a 1998 report by the Paul Scherrer Institut, which looked at accidents related to energy facilities and concluded that of 1943 accidents with more than 5 fatalities, hydro was by far the most dangerous, then coal and then gas.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News