Paris, 2 July 2020

Reducing the costs of nuclear power
on the path towards a clean energy future

It is time for action if countries around the world are to meet their decarbonisation and energy security policy goals. Nuclear energy can play a key role in meeting these objectives—if the cost of new nuclear build is economic. Governments could support rapid reduction in the costs of new nuclear capacity by creating policy frameworks that capture and apply the hard‑won industrial capabilities developed in recent years, concludes the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) in its new report Unlocking Reductions in the Construction Costs of Nuclear: A Practical Guide for Stakeholders.

"Our analysis verifies that high costs and project schedule overruns are not an inherent characteristic of nuclear technology, but are a reflection of weak supply chains and a lack of recent nuclear construction experience in western OECD countries. Nuclear energy can make substantial contributions to both the post‑COVID‑19 economic recovery and the world's long‑term environmental goals if costs are in line with market needs. Our new report provides compelling evidence for highly achievable pathways to dramatic cost reduction in nuclear new build," said NEA Director‑General William D. Magwood, IV at the report's online launch. "Cost reductions are already taking place in some parts of the world, and higher levels of industrial and regulatory harmonisation could bring additional long‑term benefits. Industry still has much to do, but the leadership and timely action by governments is essential."

This new NEA report focuses on potential cost and project risk reduction opportunities for contemporary Gen‑III reactor designs that could be unlocked in the short term and that are also applicable to small modular reactors (SMRs) and advanced reactor concepts for deployment in the longer term. The study identifies longer‑term cost reduction opportunities associated with the harmonisation of codes and standards and licensing regimes. It also explores the risk allocation schemes and mitigation priorities at the outset of well‑performing financing frameworks for new nuclear that require a concerted effort among government, industry and the society as a whole.

"For those countries that wish to include the nuclear option in their electricity mix, there is a clear window of opportunity to support significant near‑term cost reductions and increase the predictability of large nuclear projects by leveraging on lessons learnt from past projects," said Mike Middleton, Practice Manager for Nuclear at Energy Systems Catapult, and Chair of the NEA Ad hoc Expert Group on Reducing the Costs of Nuclear Power Generation (REDCOST) which took the lead in preparing the report. "Every new project is an opportunity to improve the constructability of the design, refine the associated delivery processes and reduce perceived construction risks."

The NEA report identifies eight cost‑reduction drivers that can be exploited at different stages of nuclear construction. These include government support for robust and predictable market and financing frameworks, as well as policy support mechanisms for design maturity and regulatory stability. Implementing these cost‑reduction drivers should also attenuate the technological, organisational and regulatory risks associated with new nuclear plant deployment.

Download the report

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Notes to editors

The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) is an intergovernmental agency which operates within the framework of the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development (OECD). It facilitates co‑operation among countries with advanced nuclear technology infrastructures to seek excellence in nuclear safety, technology, science, related environmental and economic matters and law. The mission of the NEA is to assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co‑operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for a safe, environmentally sound and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. It strives to provide authoritative assessments and to forge common understandings on key issues as input to government decisions on nuclear technology policies. NEA membership includes 33 countries that co‑operate through joint research, consensus building among experts and development of best practices.

The goal of the NEA in the area of nuclear technology development and economics is to provide governments and other relevant stakeholders with authoritative, reliable information and analyses on current and future nuclear technologies, as well as on the role of nuclear energy now and in the future from a sustainable development perspective. Studies cover subjects as key and diverse as techno‑economics, finance, resource analysis, energy and electricity demand and supply forecast and analysis, public opinion assessment, advances in nuclear reactor design, as well as nuclear fuel and fuel cycle technologies. The NEA can thus advise policymakers on national and international energy policies aiming to provide low‑carbon energy and electricity in a cost‑effective, reliable manner. To meet this goal, NEA staff in the division work closely with the Committee for Technical and Economic Studies on Nuclear Energy Development and the Fuel Cycle (NDC) and its expert groups. The nature of this area is such that some efforts are necessarily cross‑cutting, and the staff thus ensure co‑ordination with other NEA and OECD work as needed.

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