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Nuclear – Making Europe Fit for 55

Jul 14, 2021

The European Commission will shortly be launching a package of measures which aim to put the European Union on track for meeting the ambitious target of reducing CO2 emissions by 55% in 2030 (compared to 1990 levels).  This is certainly setting the bar very high as it will apply to a broad range of sectors including industry, buildings and transport. The power sector is expected to be fully decarbonised by 2040.  And whilst some Member States have already made good progress, many still have a long way to go. 

Achieving this target will not be easy – many aspects need to be taken into consideration to ensure that, in the race to decarbonisation, other problems do not arise. For example:

  • How will this transition be financed?
  • Will we have enough low-carbon energy to meet our needs?
  • How can we ensure that industries are able to decarbonise their manufacturing processes whilst remaining competitive?
  • And how can we mitigate potential social impacts (eg job losses, energy poverty)?

Nuclear has a key role to play in this transition, together with other low-carbon technologies.  Studies have shown time and again that achieving decarbonisation means having nuclear in the energy mix.  For example, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report (Global Warming of 1.5°C) makes it clear that nuclear power is essential if the world is to keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees. According to one of the IPCC scenarios, a six-fold increase in global nuclear capacity is needed if we want to achieve our climate goals.

So how does nuclear fit into this proposal?

  1. Nuclear will help the EU achieve its decarbonisation targets.

Nuclear is a low-carbon source of energy. As a result, it enables a decarbonised electricity grid, which will become increasingly important in the drive for electrification.  In addition, nuclear can support decarbonised heat and hydrogen production which can be used as an energy source for hard to decarbonise sectors. 

  1. Nuclear will enable an affordable transition

The latest IEA and OECD NEA report entitled ‘Projected Costs of Generating Electricity 2020’ confirms that the long-term operation of nuclear power plants remains the cheapest source of electricity. New build projects are also very competitive. Furthermore, because it is available 24/7 it has the potential to provide affordable low-carbon hydrogen as running an electrolyser for longer periods reduces the costs.

  1. Nuclear will ensure security of supply

Nuclear power plants have a high capacity factor, which means that they are available virtually 24/7.  Given that nuclear provides both dispatchable and flexible electricity, its role will become even more important as the share of variable renewables increase – it is an already existing technology  capable of filling the gap when the wind does not blow and the sun is not shinning.  Therefore, it ensures that users have access to the energy they need when they need it and, as a European source, reduces dependence on energy imports. 

  1. Nuclear supports a socially fair transition

As mentioned above, nuclear is an affordable source of energy, which is important for two reasons: firstly, lower electricity prices reduce the risk of energy poverty. Secondly, nuclear can provide industries with affordable low-carbon energy encouraging them to remain in Europe and ensuring jobs and economic growth in Europe. Without forgetting that nuclear is an industry in itself, with a strong European supply chain which supports more than one million jobs in the EU.

In a nutshell: nuclear will make Europe Fit for 55


About us: The European Atomic Forum (FORATOM) is the Brussels-based trade association for the nuclear energy industry in Europe. The membership of FORATOM is made up of 15 national nuclear associations and through these associations, FORATOM represents nearly 3,000 European companies working in the industry and supporting around 1,100,000 jobs.





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