Nuclear Innovation 2050 (NI2050) – A Roadmap to a Carbon-free Energy Future

The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has, since its inception, worked with interested countries to facilitate co-operation and technical exchanges for the purpose of advancing nuclear technology and enhancing its ability to provide safe and secure energy. While there are more nuclear power plants under construction and being planned than at any time since the 1970s, innovation in many countries has slowed. As a result, the advanced technologies needed to develop next-generation nuclear energy technologies, to find new and better approaches to managing radioactive waste and to deploy more environmentally-friendly, cost-effective methods to decommission and dismantle old reactors, are not being developed as rapidly as they are likely to be needed.

Recent work by the NEA, including the joint NEA/IEA Nuclear Technology Roadmap published in early 2015, highlights the important role that nuclear fission technology can play in achieving a low-carbon future. The report notes that an economics-driven scenario to meet the widely accepted "2°C" target (which guides international discussions regarding limits on carbon emissions) would require global nuclear capacity to increase by 2.3 times by 2050. Meeting the even more ambitious goal of climate experts to eliminate carbon emissions from energy production by 2100 will almost certainly require technologies that simply do not exist today.

Within this context, we must ask: are the efforts and resources currently going into research and development (R&D), and demonstration, sufficient to foster the innovation in nuclear fission technologies needed to meet our future needs? The following questions must be answered:

  1. What technologies will be needed in the coming decades to meet growing demand and to align with policy goals?
  2. What R&D is needed to make these technologies available?
  3. Is the global community doing the R&D needed to prepare for the future?
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In order to address these questions, the NEA has launched a new initiative known as “Nuclear Innovation 2050” (NI2050). NI2050 is designed to help set global nuclear fission R&D priorities and foster their implementation, and to identify opportunities for enhanced co-operation. Following the discussions at the NI2050 start-up workshop which took place in Paris in July 2015, involving representatives of NEA member countries and heads of main research organisations, the work effort has been organised in three phases:

A final workshop is scheduled at the end of Phase 2 to bring together all parties concerned and stakeholders involved, where the outcomes will be presented and possible future steps will be discussed, in particular, the opportunity and way to launch Phase 3, if appropriate.

The overall process and timeline of the NI2050 initiative can be visualised in the figure below:

NI2050 process and timeline

More detailed information can be obtained by contacting the following people in the NEA Division of Nuclear Development:

, Head of Division

, Nuclear Analyst

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Last reviewed: 18 December 2015