Paris, 25 May 1998
In a new study released today, Nuclear Power and Climate Change, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) concludes that nuclear power could play a role in alleviating the risk of global climate change and that its contribution to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions could be significant. Keeping the nuclear option open in order to realise this potential will require a number of actions by governments and by industries in the nuclear sector.
In the Protocol agreed upon in Kyoto at the end of 1997 by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a number of industrial countries (called "Annex 1 countries") have made commitments to reduce their GHG emissions. Also, under the Protocol, these countries shall undertake promotion, research, development and increased use of new and renewable forms of energy, of carbon dioxide sequestration technologies and of advanced and innovative environmentally sound technologies. One important option that could be covered by the last phrase, although it is not specifically mentioned, is nuclear energy which is essentially carbon-free.
The main objective of this new NEA study is to provide a quantitative basis for assessing the consequences for the nuclear sector and for the reduction of GHG emissions of alternative nuclear development paths. The analysis covers the economic, financial, industrial and potential environmental effects of three alternative nuclear power development paths ("nuclear variants"), respectively assuming continued nuclear growth, phase-out, and stagnation followed by revival. Each of the three variants would create challenges for the nuclear sector, but all of them would be feasible in terms of natural resource availability and industrial implementation.