NEA Mandates and Structures

Ad Hoc Expert Group on Climate Change: Assessment of the Vulnerability of Nuclear Power Plants and Cost of Adaptation (NUCA)

Chair(s): Jean-Yves CANEILL, France
Secretary:  Sama BILBAO Y LEON
Vice-Chair(s): Sanna SYRI, Finland
Member(s):All NEA member countries
Full participant(s): European Commission
Under the NEA Statute
Observer(s)(International Organisation): International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
By agreement
Date of creation:01 January 2013
End of mandate:31 December 2021

Mandate (Document reference):

Mandate (Document extract):

Extract from document NEA/NDC(2020)8



There is increasing concern, on the evidence of current energy policies in both developed and developing economies, that greenhouse gas emissions will not be reduced sufficiently fast to avoid the effects of climate change. Climate projections show in some regions the increased likelihood of intense heat waves accompanied by droughts, or violent storms, flooding, etc. Such effects could undermine the output of thermal power plants, and nuclear power plants (NPPs) in particular, which require large quantities of water for cooling. Safety or environmental considerations due to extreme weather conditions may also lead to throttling or shut down of power plants, at an economic cost to the owners. Events such as the heat waves that hit Europe in 2003 and 2006, and more recently the United States in 2012, have shown that nuclear power operation can indeed be affected by cooling water availability issues. Storms, such as the tropical storm Sandy that hit the East Coast of the United States in October 2012 can also be a matter for concern, as they can undermine the integrity of the transmission network or, through flooding and transport of debris, challenge the operation of the cooling systems. In either case, the operation of NPPs can also be affected by such extreme climatic events.

Events which today appear to be rare may become more frequent in the future. Given the expected lifetime of nuclear power plants – 60 years for new designs – it is clear that climate change considerations must be addressed at design, planning and licensing stages, and this will have an impact on the cost of nuclear electricity. Even for operating units, there may be the need to retrofit the plants to make them more resilient in the face of climate change. Closed cooling systems, more robust water intake systems and more efficient heat exchangers are examples of adaptation measures. These have a cost, which must be compared to the cost of inaction, i.e. the risk of forced outages due to extreme weather.

Objectives and Scope

The Committee for Technical and Economic Studies on Nuclear Energy Development and the Fuel Cycle (NDC) launched a study in 2013 on the issue of adaptation to climate change. The primary objectives of the study are to:

As guidance to the study, a detailed background paper was drafted and sent to the NDC prior to its meeting held on 3-4 October 2012. On the basis of this paper and the discussions with the NDC at this meeting, it was proposed to carry out the study by addressing the following issues and tasks:

Working methods

To achieve these objectives, an expert group (NUCA) was established in 2013, under the oversight of the NDC.

This expert group may include representatives of utilities and power generation technology providers, regulators, ministries in charge of energy and climate issues, research and academic organisations, key associations and international organisations.


The Ad hoc Expert Group will produce a report with the support of the Secretariat.

The Ad Hoc Expert Group will be disbanded upon completion and publication of the report.

Other Relevant Studies

See bibliography in NEA/NDC(2012)22.


During the course of its activities, the Ad hoc Expert Group will collaborate with the NEA Division of Nuclear Safety Technology and Regulation, the OECD Environment Directorate, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Commission.