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1,000 Nuclear Plants Needed by 2050, International Report Predicts

Nuclear Energy Insight

July 2008—Countries around the world must build 32 new reactors every year until 2050 to meet predicted energy demand, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). The agency made that prediction in its study, “2008 Energy Technology Perspectives.”

“A global energy technology revolution is both necessary and achievable, but it will be a tough challenge,” said Nobuo Tanaka, the agency’s executive director. The combination of surging energy demand, rising concerns about greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly scarce resources contributes to the need for energy reform, he added.

insight_02_0708 The agency tested two possible scenarios: one uses existing technologies that would bring global carbon dioxide emissions to current levels by 2050; the other targets a 50 percent reduction in current emission levels in the same timeframe.

Using existing technologies to limit emissions to current levels by 2050 “is difficult and costly,” the IEA said. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that a reduction of 50 percent to 85 percent by 2050 is necessary to avoid severe global warming and climate change.

The IEA said that the world needs a “very rapid change of direction” to achieve the higher reduction. Because the technologies needed to obtain this goal are still under development, deployment costs would be staggering and the technologies’ success unpredictable, the analysis said.

The report stresses the need to improve energy efficiency in appliances, buildings, industry and power generation. It also says that de-carbonizing current fossil-fuel power plants through carbon capture and storage, building more renewables, and expanding nuclear energy are imperative to achieve such reductions.

IEA suggested a “dramatic shift” in policy as well. The analysis said that an “urgent implementation of unprecedented and far-reaching new policies in the energy sector” would be required to meet a 50 percent reduction in 2050.

Government funding is required not only in construction, but in research, development and demonstration.

More ambitious standards and regulations, as well as cooperation among all nations, are essential, the group said.

—Read more articles in Nuclear Energy Insight and Insight Web Extra.