New nuclear build enhances system-level energy security, increases the resilience of the electricity grid and helps to reduce dependency on energy imports states a study by the New Nuclear Watch Institute (NNWI).
The report makes a clear case for establishing and preserving a diversified, low-carbon generation mix during the transition to a decarbonised energy system, and thus argues that reducing nuclear capacity – whether by intentional phase-out or failure to commit to new build – poses significant risks to energy security.
The research, titled Energy Security in the Age of Net-Zero Ambitions and the System Value of Nuclear Power, highlights the stress placed on the security of electricity supply as the share of power generation accounted for by weather-dependent renewable energy sources rises.
According to the report, nuclear energy is one of the few commercially mature, large-scale sources of clean electricity that is able to provide power on a sustained basis throughout the year and so is able to back up variable renewables without increasing exposure to the risks of price volatility and supply insecurity of an imported ‘transitional fuel’, i.e. natural gas.
Commenting on the study’s findings, Tim Yeo, Chairman, NNWI said: “The urgent need to accelerate the switch to low carbon electricity generation increasingly drives international energy policy. Our report shows that meeting this need by expanding intermittent renewable energy without also ensuring a continuing significant contribution from nuclear power will threaten the security of energy supplies.”
The nuclear study finds dependency concerns unfounded
The report also finds that, contrary to some media and political narrative, the risks to energy security arising from the involvement of non-OECD nuclear vendors at each stage of the plant’s lifecycle, from before construction through operation to decommissioning, are of a low degree, manageable and can be mitigated through prudent regulatory measures.
Since the current state of the nuclear export market implies that increased new build activity is likely to involve non-OECD state-supported nuclear vendors from Russia and China, there has been speculation of geopolitical energy security threats to potential host countries.
The study finds that the supposed dependency concerns associated with the host-vendor relationship in the nuclear energy sector are historically and practically unfounded.
“Climate change is now an existential threat to the human species. To overcome this challenge governments around the world must set aside geopolitical considerations at once and unite to deploy all available low carbon technologies,” added Tim Yeo.
“Nuclear power is proven as the most reliable way to generate large scale clean electricity. The nature of the nuclear industry means that the interests of equipment suppliers, plant developers and customers are closely aligned. The risks to energy security from using imported nuclear technology can actually be more easily managed, and are therefore potentially lower, than relying on imported fossil fuels.”