IEA warns that world does not have enough nuclear plants

June 27, 2014

Beginning in 1972, the world experienced a sudden uptick in nuclear power plant construction that allowed installed nuclear capacity to increase exponentially until the mid-1990s, when it began to level off. Given the threat that climate change poses to the world, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warns that a lack of nuclear plant construction could imperil our ability to cut carbon emissions significantly.

As reported by an article in The Verge, the IEA believes that the world must cut its carbon emissions to half of 2011 levels in order to experience a 20 percent chance of avoiding a global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius. Since nuclear energy can produce far more power than fossil fuel generation while emitting only a fraction of the atmospheric pollution, the IEA argues that the world must add 186 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2025. At the current rate, we will be between 5 and 24 percent short of that goal.

It can take a long time—anywhere between 5 and 10 year—to build a new nuclear reactor and get it operational. The problem is that, in many cases, existing reactors are aging rapidly and will need to be decommissioned before then. In order to stay ahead of this trend, more investment in nuclear power will be needed.

Another more pressing problem is that recent events—such as the Fukushima disaster that occurred in Japan in 2011—have only discouraged policymakers from pursuing nuclear energy. Germany has gone even further, pledging to completely eliminate its nuclear reactors by 2022.

It is certainly true that nuclear power can be dangerous when used improperly, and nuclear waste can have long-term effects on its environment. However, with the help of environmental consultants, stakeholders can minimize these risks while maximizing the benefits of a plentiful energy source.