It is clear that future nuclear systems will operate in an environment that will be very different from the electricity systems that accompanied the fast deployment of nuclear power plants in the 1970s and 1980s. As countries fulfil their commitment to decarbonise their energy systems, low-carbon sources of electricity and in particular variable renewables, will take large shares of the overall generation capacities. This is challenging since in most cases, the timescale for nuclear technology development is far greater than the speed at which markets and policy/regulation frameworks can change. Nuclear energy, which in OECD countries is still the largest source of low-carbon electricity, has a major role to play as a low-carbon dispatchable technology. In its 2 degree scenarios, the International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that nuclear capacity globally could reach over 900 GW by 2050, with a share of electricity generation rising from less than 11% today to about 16%. Nuclear energy could also play a role in the decarbonisation of the heat sector, by targeting non-electric applications.
The workshop discussed how energy systems are evolving towards low-carbon systems, what the future of energy market needs are, the changing regulatory framework from both the point of view of safety requirements and environmental constraints, and how reactor developers are taking these into account in their designs. In terms of technology, the scope covered all advanced reactor systems under development today, including evolutionary light water reactors (LWRs), small modular reactors (SMRs) – whether LWR technology-based or not, and Generation IV (Gen IV) systems.
Last reviewed: 18 May 2017