A new analysis from Frost & Sullivan European Nuclear Power Sector, finds that nuclear energy is the answer to meeting aggressive EU targets on carbon dioxide emissions and fossil fuels. Despite the environmental risks, nuclear energy shows potential to reduce emissions and dependence on fossil fuels, and therefore, will be a major contributor to the European energy mix in 2020.
"It is difficult to envisage Europe phasing out nuclear power from its energy mix, despite the antagonistic stance of countries like Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Belgium where there are likely to be embargoes on further nuclear power development," noted Frost & Sullivan Energy & Power Supplies Research Analyst, Neha Vikash. "Nuclear power will play an active role in Europe's energy generation and in meeting the region's environmental goals."
The number of nuclear new build projects, despite Fukushima, is still higher now than across the last two decades – although Asia is leading in numbers, the US has approved its first new build since 1970. France, Finland, the United Kingdom and Sweden have all reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear power. In Central and Eastern Europe, Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic are also planning to push ahead with new units, following increased safety assessments.
"While there will be shutdowns, member states like the United Kingdom and Finland will push through better safety standards and support new nuclear build over the next four to five years," remarked Vikash. "Apart from new builds, these states will also concentrate on increasing the share of electricity generation from renewables and decreasing their dependence on fossil fuels."
Nuclear energy will remain a prime candidate as Europe mulls its decarbonising options. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) could potentially reduce the dependence on coal and gas. However, this technology is still at a nascent stage with few demonstration projects having been implemented.
Renewables represent the best foreseeable option, but are cost-intensive. Moreover, it is not possible for renewables to compensate for the large-scale energy production currently supported by nuclear sources, until the next decade.
"Dependence on foreign imports, especially gas from Russia, is politically fraught," concluded Vikash. "Therefore, nuclear energy will be among the few alternatives Europe is left with to meet its energy needs while staying on course to meet its climate change goals."