The need to cut greenhouse gas emissions is now central to global energy and environmental policy making, with ambitious targets for emissions reductions being adopted or considered by most OECD countries. There is growing recognition that nuclear power has an important role to play in a lower emissions energy future.
However, doubts remain about whether nuclear generating capacity can be expanded quickly enough to make a difference, and whether constraints on uranium supply or other inputs could limit the nuclear contribution to energy supply. Some also argue that indirect CO2 emissions from energy use in the nuclear fuel cycle could become significant if nuclear capacity were greatly increased.
This expert group was established in October 2009 to assess the potential role of nuclear energy in reducing CO2 emissions, particularly in the 2030 to 2050 timescale, and the challenges to be overcome if this is to be realised. It will build on existing work by the NEA, the International Energy Agency and other organisations that envisage a role for nuclear energy in a low-carbon energy future. The study will also address the question of how much CO2 is produced in the overall nuclear cycle, and the extent to which this could rise given the assumed increases in nuclear generating capacity.
The study will aim to make a valuable contribution to the ongoing high-level political debate on the role of nuclear power in cutting emissions. The main output will be a report to be completed by the end of 2010.