Nuclear important to sustainable energy mix, says UNECE report

06 December 2018

All energy sources, including renewables, nuclear and high efficiency fossil fuel with carbon capture and storage, must be considered along with new business models and significant improvements in energy efficiency and productivity to ensure that the energy needed for sustainable development is available and affordable.

This is one of the key messages expressed in the Outcome Document of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's (UNECE's) Ministerial Conference of the International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development that was held in Kiev last month. UNECE published the Outcome Document yesterday. Nuclear power was for the first time included on the programme of the conference, which is in its ninth year.

"Some countries choose to pursue nuclear power with a view that it can play an important role in the global sustainable energy mix,” the Outcome Document states, noting that nuclear power is the second largest source of low-carbon electricity, after hydropower. It adds that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's 1.5-degree pathway report estimates that nuclear power generation will need to grow 2.5 times by 2050 if objectives are to be met.

Among its recommendations for priority action, the Outcome Report says that "decisions regarding the future energy mix should be made on the basis of a technology-neutral policy framework where all supply and demand options are recognised for their contribution”. It also says that global investment in the energy sector is “running behind what is needed to achieve deep transformation".

"Governments should create conducive environments to gain investor trust," it says. "Enhancing open markets and strengthening rule of law can contribute to such trust-building. This applies equally to state-owned investors and foreign and domestic private investors."

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2016, the Paris Agreement on climate change entered into force, with the target of limiting global warming to 'well below' 2 degrees Celsius.

The UNECE conference in Kiev included a workshop on nuclear power, which was co-organised by World Nuclear Association and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Opening the workshop, Scott Foster, director of the Sustainable Energy Division of UNECE, said: "I really want to highlight how important this session is for the whole Forum. We're heading down the path to 4-6 degrees, which is quite enormous, and the question is what the role of nuclear power is going to be. A dialogue on the energy transition is incomplete without considering nuclear power."

Among its other key messages, the Outcome Document states that the current Nationally Determined Contributions “widely fail” to meet a 2-degree temperature objective “let alone” the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping warming temperatures well below 2 degrees.

"All nations are committed and are in the process of developing or implementing their approach to achieving their interpretation of sustainable energy and the 2030 Agenda. It is necessary that each country recognises the perspectives and the drivers of the others, that there is not a single approach to the transition but a multitude of approaches," the Outcome Document states.

It adds: "The current political, regulatory, and industrial infrastructure is not ready for deep transformation. Best practices and experiences should be shared and promoted and, where they are insufficient, reconsidered."

Some 80% of today’s energy mix is fossil-based, and fossil energy will remain important, the document says, "a reality that makes it imperative to address the environmental footprint of fossil fuels urgently".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News