WEC studies nuclear's role in Europe

31 January 2007

A World Energy Council (WEC) working group has concluded that nuclear power has an important part to play in achieving sustainability as well as good levels of energy availability.

The group, consisting of 29 experts from Europe�s electricity industry, led by Mr Alessandro Clerici, senior consultant to the chair of ABB, have been investigating the role that nuclear power production currently plays within the European energy scene. Their report provides an analysis of the role nuclear needs to play in Europe's future.


The one-year study resulted in The Role of Nuclear Power in Europe, a 135-page report, which aims to clarify the conditions nuclear energy should meet to be re-integrated into the European electricity market.


Today, nuclear power accounts for nearly 30% of the total electricity supply in Europe. However, a large number of European power plants will be retired between 2010 and 2030. The WEC study demonstrates that many European countries are showing a keen interest in nuclear power as a way to meet future energy demand and cut emissions. The report points out that there are solid economic reasons to support the development of nuclear power in Europe.


It says, "For existing plants the economics behind nuclear power look particularly attractive considering that planned lifetime extensions, capacity increases and licence renewals can further reduce costs."


"If carbon dioxide emissions were ever penalized, nuclear would be a particularly competitive alternative. As nuclear power generation does not produce greenhouse gases and emissions it would undoubtedly help tackle growing environmental concerns," the study says.

With regards to nuclear waste, "the actual amount of spent fuel produced globally every year is approximately 12,000 tonnes.


Therefore, compared to the 25 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas released annually from fossil fuels directly into the atmosphere, the amount of waste is relatively small. Were spent fuel to be reprocessed, the figure would be even lower."


The report highlights the need for added support for nuclear research and development with a special focus on Generation-IV technologies, which are estimated to be available on the market between 2030 and 2040.


Public support is essential, the report says, in launching a new generation of nuclear power plants. "Nuclear energy has long been viewed with unease and there is, without doubt, concern over safety, proliferation and waste. More accessible and accurate information is needed to ensure that consumers understand that nuclear power is one realistic option for electricity production in Europe today."


Gerald Doucet, Secretary General of WEC, said that the organization "champions all forms of energy; our belief is that all energy options must be kept open if we are to attain the sustainable supply and use of energy. Nuclear power has an important role in the energy mix if we are to achieve sustainability and improve global accessibility, acceptability and availability of modern energy services."


Further information


World Energy Council


WNA's Economics of Nuclear Power information paper