Policies hold European nuclear steady

09 January 2014

The European Union's installed nuclear generating capacity in 2050 is forecast to be at about the same level as in 2010, according to the European Commission's (EC's) analysis of the bloc's current energy and climate policies.

In its report - entitled EU Energy, Transport and GHG Emissions: Trends to 2050 - the EC presents a new 'EU Reference Scenario 2013'. Last revised in 2009, this scenario was updated in July 2013 to determine the development of the EU energy system under current trends and adopted policies. The scenario includes all binding targets set out in EU legislation regarding development of renewable energies and reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as legislation promoting energy efficiency. It comes as negotiations get underway into defining targets for European emission reductions up to 2030.

With regards to nuclear energy, the EC says, "The assumptions on nuclear have radically changed compared to previous projections based on recent policy developments, changed economic situation and detailed surveys into the possibilities of extending the lifetime of existing power plants."

Nuclear energy generation will decline up to 2025, it suggests, partly due to phase-out policies in Germany and Belgium. However, between 2025 and 2050, "the projected level of investments surpasses decommissioning of nuclear capacity and by the end of the projection period installed nuclear capacities are almost equal to 2010 levels." Net European nuclear generating capacity was 131.3 GWe in 2010 and is forecast to decline to 96.9 GWe in 2025 before rising to 122.0 GWe in 2050.

The EC expects most investment in nuclear energy up to 2050 to be either in new capacity at existing plant sites or lifetime extensions projects of current reactors. "There are very few projected investments in nuclear capacities at new sites," the report states.

Nuclear's share of EU electricity generation is forecast to drop from 27% in 2010 to 21% in 2050, while the share held by renewable energy sources is predicted to increase from 21% to 51.6%. Meanwhile, fossil fuels' share of generation will almost halve over the period, from 52% in 2010 to 27% in 2050.

The report concludes that the portfolio of policies and binding targets that have so far been adopted in the EU - including the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) - will "bring about considerable changes in the energy system relative to past trends."

Keeping nuclear in the mix

EU countries are currently bound by the 20-20-20 energy goals introduced in 2007. These require that by the year 2020 the region achieves a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and a 20% increase in energy efficiency as compared to a 1990 baseline, as well as that 20% of overall energy be supplied by renewable energy sources. The long term goal is for 80% decarbonisation by the year 2050.

In March 2013, a joint statement from the governments of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the UK called for 'neutrality of technology' in meeting future EU decarbonisation targets. They stressed that nuclear power "can play a part in the EU's future low carbon energy mix and called for an investment environment to be created within Europe that specifically takes into account "the long term nature of nuclear infrastructure projects."

Negotiations are underway on setting energy policy goals for 2030 but it is yet to be seen whether these will set further renewable energy targets or emission reduction targets.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News