Birol calls for nuclear acceleration

04 November 2021

Countries have "re-appreciated" the value of nuclear power, International Energy Agency (IEA) Executive Director Fatih Birol said at COP26 today. Birol, who called for new build in Europe, North America and Asia, also said that national commitments made at COP26 would put the world on track to limit global warming to 1.8°C.

Birol speaking at the French nuclear event at COP26 (Image: Dean Calma/IAEA)

Speaking at the French stand at COP26, Birol said he came with two pieces of news.

"Before COP26," he began, "there was a lot of scepticism whether or not something will ever come out of this meeting. And in the last few days we have seen that several governments have made commitments to net-zero emissions" as well as commitments on methane reductions.

"I asked my colleagues in Paris," Birol said, "If those commitments are fulfilled, what kind of temperature trajectory is the world in line with? The answer that came was: if those are fulfilled, including those made in the last few days, and importantly India - the world temperature increase is 1.8°C."

"It doesn't mean the problem is solved. It doesn't mean that the commitments will be fulfilled, but it is a very important signal to the rest of the world," Birol stressed.

Nuclear 're-appreciation'

Birol moved on to his second item of news, concerning the rising prices of fossil fuels.

"The world is going through difficult times in terms of energy volatility," he said. "One of the unintended positive consequences of this market volatility is that some people have re-appreciated the value of nuclear power. This is something we all need to take note of."

Birol referred to the IEA's Net Zero by 2050: A Roadmap for the Global Energy Sector report, the recommendations of which he said are well accepted and are being widely followed.

"One of the facts in that report is in my view very pertinent. In order to reach energy and climate goals nuclear generation needs to double compared to today," he said.

As well as growth in renewables, improvements in efficiency and development in hydrogen, "nuclear power generation needs to double if we are to reach our energy and climate goals," said Birol. "Nuclear power has an integral role to play if we are serious about the climate challenge."

For the nuclear sector there are three tasks, said Birol. The first of these is to secure the long-term operation of current nuclear power plants, which is "one of the cheapest sources of clean electricity generation." The nuclear sector also needs to "renew itself", through innovation such as bringing small reactors to market. In terms of new build, Birol said, "I think again if people believe our Net Zero Roadmap we have to increase the pace of new build of nuclear power plants by a factor of five."

Nuclear new build should come "not only from one country" such as China. "We would like to see new nuclear build from Europe, North America and Asia again," Birol said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News