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 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 considerations of changes in the climate 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 extreme weather events.
The Nuclear Energy Agency of OECD is launching a two-year study (2013-14) on the assessment of the vulnerability of nuclear power plants, and the cost of adapting to changes in the climate. The primary objectives of the study, to be carried out by a group of experts with secretarial support, under the oversight of the Nuclear Development Committee (NDC), are to assess the impact of climate changes on the contribution of nuclear power to the security of energy supply, taking into account the impact on the demand side as well, quantify the cost of inaction and the cost of adaptation.
Mr. Henri Paillère
+33 1 45 24 10 67
Last reviewed: 30 January 2013