Nuclear has role in sustainable mix

16 November 2011

A new report by the World Energy Council into countries' energy policies has determined that a mixture of generating technologies and strategies is best for ensuring sustainable energy production.

The report released yesterday, Policies for the future: 2011 Assessment of country energy and climate policies, ranks country performance according to an energy sustainability index - in other words how well they perform in the three pillars of energy policy - energy security, environment and affordability.


The best performers: Switzerland (40% nuclear for electricity), Sweden (40% nuclear), France (75% nuclear), Germany (30% nuclear prior to reactor shut down earlier this year) and Canada (15% nuclear); are those which, according to the authors, have the most coherent and robust energy polices and which most successfully manage the trade-offs between the three pillars. They all have diversified energy portfolios and promote energy efficiency. Notably, no country leads in all three areas.


On the subject of nuclear power, the report notes:

The aftermath of Fukushima is causing a great deal of turbulence for the future of nuclear power in several regimes. The nuclear states looking to phase out nuclear technology must address the issue of how to do so without negatively impacting existing energy sustainability. For example, nearly one-quarter of Germany’s electricity is currently provided by nuclear power. It will be challenging to fill the gap left by nuclear power while not increasing reliance on carbon-based power generation especially since the renewable infrastructure currently does not have the capability to do so. It is imperative that policymakers and industry executives have a clear, robust, and well communicated energy vision that considers all aspects of a nuclear phase out before instigating a wholesale change of a nation’s energy mix including the impact on neighbouring countries and energy markets.

These results are based mainly on data for 2009-2010, and thus do not reflect the effects of changes in policy caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident and recent political instability in North Africa and the Middle East. It is clear, however, that nuclear energy plays a prominent role in the electricity generation mix of all countries highlighted and that moving away from nuclear could impact their performance.


The report notes that focusing solely on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and relying only on market mechanisms is not enough to achieve sustainability. Industry and policy makers must continue to work towards "Ensuring a stable regulatory regime that supports a large volume of capital investments while allowing policy updates and revisions as necessa; Driving changes in energy systems at a pace that may be faster than markets alone will support; Stimulating an urgency to reduce carbon emissions and the policies to drive those changes, while building and maintaining support from consumers and citizens."
Speaking at a media event World Energy Council Chairman Pierre Gadonneix, stressed the importance that; "public policies must provide the market with robust frameworks and typically grant actors with: prices that reflect real costs, long-term visibility, an implicit or explicit carbon dioxide price, an assumed responsibility of states to develop and ensure safety and acceptance, as well as environmental standards."


Researched and written 

by World Nuclear News