Today, climate change is a central societal issue that has resulted in the need to deeply decarbonise the economy, and the energy sector in particular. The concept of the “energy transition” is high on many policy making agendas. It will be critical to ensure the right balance in the energy mix of the future, based on an energy policy delivering sustainable development through: i) global environmental protection; ii) affordability and competitiveness; and iii) security and reliability of energy supply. Nuclear energy, as confirmed by the 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, should play a role in the necessary energy transition towards a very low carbon energy mix.
Innovation is necessary to develop and bring to the market new nuclear technologies that will be able to compete in the global energy markets of the future, being cheaper, more flexible and faster to deploy than the nuclear technologies of yesterday, while continuing to meet high levels of safety. This applies to the traditional nuclear reactor systems per se, but also to the numerous necessary enabling technologies, nuclear and non-nuclear specific, including those from other industrial domains where breakthroughs have been continuously matured and implemented.
Innovation also embraces the need to improve the process to bring technologies to the market in faster and more effective ways, by ensuring a better involvement of all necessary stakeholders (researchers, industry, regulators and authorities) as early as possible.
Since its inception, the NEA has 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.
In 2015, the NEA launched Nuclear Innovation 2050 (NI2050), an initiative to accelerate R&D and market deployment of innovative nuclear fission technologies.
NI2050 is a broad initiative on nuclear innovation, potentially covering a wide scope of technology areas, addressing reactor systems design and operation, fuels and fuel cycle technologies, waste management and decommissioning, and applications beyond electricity generation, in particular to tackle the potential of the heat market and the corresponding increased flexibility in operation.
The goal of the Committee for Technical and Economic Studies on Nuclear Energy Development and the Fuel Cycle is to provide authoritative, reliable information on nuclear technologies, economics, strategies and resources to governments for use in policy analyses and decision-making.
This expert group investigated what are the cogeneration capabilities of various advanced reactor designs, as well as the flexibility they may have to switch from electricity generation to heat production depending on electricity market conditions.