Experts of the United Nations European Economic Council (UNECE) announced that it is not possible to achieve global climate goals without nuclear energy. In UNECE's newly released technology summary report, it was pointed out that nuclear energy can help meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Nuclear could be seen as part of a broader spectrum alongside the use of other sustainable low-carbon or zero-carbon technologies to decarbonize the global energy system and energy-intensive industries.
The report, which is one of a series of energy technology summaries published by UNECE to help mitigate the effects of climate change and accelerate the spread of low-carbon technologies, noted that decisions to shut down nuclear power plants represent setbacks for efforts to mitigate climate change. The report also highlighted the importance of securing the long-term operation of existing nuclear power plants.
“Nuclear energy is an important source of low-carbon electricity and heat that can contribute to achieving carbon neutrality for countries that choose to implement this technology, thereby helping to mitigate climate change and achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” UNECE Secretary-General Olga Algayerova said in a statement. .
Time is running out
Nuclear energy, which is a low-carbon energy source, plays a major role in preventing CO2 emissions that cause climate change. Nuclear energy, which has prevented 50Gt of CO74 emissions in the last 2 years, which corresponds to the total global energy emissions of approximately two years, reveals how important it is in achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Today, nuclear energy provides 20 percent of the electricity produced in the UNECE region and 43 percent of the low carbon production. More than half of the electricity production in the UNECE region is still provided by fossil fuels. Experts therefore point out that time is running out for the rapid transformation of the global energy system.
The decision to shut down nuclear reactors should be reviewed
The report emphasized that nuclear power is an active part of the energy system, providing more than 11 percent of electricity generation in 30 countries in the UNECE region (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czechia, Finland, France, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine). In the report, where it was announced that 20 countries are currently operating nuclear power plants and 15 countries have new reactors under construction or development, it was noted that 7 UNECE member countries were in the process of developing a nuclear energy program for the first time.
Some countries, such as Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States, have made it clear that nuclear power will play an important role in reducing their national emissions in the future. In response, Belgium announced that it would phase out nuclear power in 2025 and Germany in 2023. In the summary report, it was stated that a total of 292 reactors were active in the region, and since 2000, more than 70 reactors were closed due to political, economic or technical reasons. For the most part, these reactors have been replaced by partial fossil fuel power generation systems, which will cause disruptions in the fight against climate change.
UNICE experts said that the premature shutdown of more nuclear power plants should be prevented. He pointed out that the International Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency also see this as an urgent priority for climate change.
Options for reactor technologies
In the report, where it was explained that nuclear reactor technology consists of three classes: large gigawatt-scale reactors, small modular reactors (Small Modular Reactors - SMR) and micro reactors, it was underlined that large reactors are well-established technologies that are commercially available today. Small modular reactors have designs that are rapidly approaching commercial distribution, and a facility operating in this direction on Russia's northern coast supplies heat and electricity to people at long distances. Some micro-reactor designs are expected to appear in vendor countries such as the USA and Canada over the next five years.
Nuclear is a competitive option
In the said technology brief, it was emphasized that nuclear energy is a competitive option and said, “Nuclear energy offers a competitive option in terms of electricity generation in many parts of the world in terms of cost index. Thanks to low-cost financing and market structure, the burden of high up-front capital costs ranging from 5-10 billion US dollars for large nuclear power plants can be reduced. The small scale “micro-reactors” and small modular reactors of the future will be easier to finance and support the technology interaction with variable renewable energy.
While it was stated that nuclear energy has the potential to increase the integration of other low-carbon energy sources in the decarbonized energy systems of the future, the need for countries using nuclear power to work together was also emphasized.
Turkey took the first step with Akkuyu
Currently, 443 nuclear power reactors around the world continue to produce low-carbon electricity. 19 reactors are under construction in 51 countries, including Turkey, China, France, Japan, England and Finland. Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant (NGS), which is under construction in Mersin, represents an important step taken by Turkey towards solving the climate change problem. Experts note that the floods, droughts and forest fires seen this year in Turkey should be seen as a sign of future climate events. In this respect, it is underlined that the country's turn to nuclear energy is not an option but a necessity for both climate goals and sustainable development, and that the transition to clean energy cannot be without nuclear power.
Akkuyu NPP will consist of a total of 3 reactors with modern Russian designed 1200+ generation VVER 4 technology. The power plant, which will produce 35 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually, will meet 10 percent of the country's energy needs. According to the data of the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources; In case Akkuyu NPP works at full capacity, Turkey will be freed from 7 billion cubic meters of natural gas imports every year. In the country where hydrocarbon fuel consumption accounts for 86% of the total greenhouse gas emissions, Akkuyu will prevent the emission of 35 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.