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Reaching 150GW installed nuclear capacity by 2050

Sep 4, 2023

Yves Desbazeille, nucleareurope Director General

Earlier this year, the Nuclear Alliance of Member States set a very ambitious target of 150GW of installed nuclear capacity in the EU by 2050.  This is by no means an easy feat, as whilst we can prolong most of our existing fleet, this will only provide 35GW. As a result, we have just over 25 years to build an additional 115GW of new capacity. 

Why 150GW of nuclear capacity? Firstly, because one of the best ways of decarbonising Europe’s economy is to electrify its energy system as much as possible (and of course, this electricity will need to be low carbon). In this respect, our view is that 25% of this electricity will need to come from nuclear. 

At the same time, we need to be realistic: not all sectors can be 100% electrified, such as energy intensive industries.  Therefore, low carbon heat and hydrogen will need to play an important for these sectors in particular and here again nuclear is needed to ensure a constant supply of such energy sources. 

Finally, because we need to look at the bigger picture: Europe is in the midst of an energy crisis.  And one of the best ways of helping to prevent such a crisis from repeating itself in the future is to ensure that we have a robust energy system that keeps dependence on third countries to a minimum.  What Europe needs to do is strengthen its energy sovereignty and support ALL low-carbon sources of energy – electricity, hydrogen, heat etc – which can be generated in Europe. And for us, this clearly means nuclear and renewables.   

Let’s take a closer look at 150GW of installed nuclear capacity looks like:

  • 23% is expected to come from the long-term operation of the existing nuclear fleet.
  • 37% will be new, large reactors.
  • 33% is expected to come from Small Modular Reactors (SMRs)
  • and 7% from Advanced Modular Reactors.

Achieving this ambitious target is going to require significant efforts from all sides: industry, policymakers, financial institutions etc. 

Looking at industry, it is clear that we need to deliver.  Ramping up nuclear capacity is going to require a massive investment in the workforce, throughout the value chain.  The first thing we need to do is make ourselves more attractive to young people, so that they are encouraged to consider a future in the nuclear sector. But we must also clearly identify what skills we need to make sure we put in place the right education and training programmes.

The supply chain is also key.  By building up a European supply chain base – and demonstrating that there is a market for the components and services that they provide in Europe – we can ensure that we have access to what we need, thus potentially reducing project delays.

We also need to make ourselves more attractive to financing organisations.  The money is out there – but we need to prove that nuclear is a worthwhile investment.

On the policy side, it is essential that legislation is clearly aligned with Europe’s energy goals in terms of decarbonisation, affordability and security of supply.  This means that policies must respect the principle of technology neutrality, and thus include nuclear along with renewables.  Important files in this respect include all policies relating to hydrogen, the Net Zero Industry Act and the different EU financing mechanisms.  

Let’s be clear: the EU needs to play its part. First of all, by sticking to the fundamentals of the Euratom Treaty – which includes taking a pragmatic approach when it comes to nuclear. Secondly, by ensuring that it respects the principle of technology neutrality. And finally, by basing political decisions on science and thus acknowledging that throughout its lifecycle, nuclear is a sustainable technology.

Yves Desbazeille, nucleareurope Director General

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