Electricity

Simson: Up to EUR 450 billion is needed to maintain nuclear capacity in EU

Simson: Up to EUR 450 billion is needed to maintain nuclear capacity in EU

Photo: Christophe Licoppe / EC - Audiovisual Service

Published

November 15, 2022

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Published:

November 15, 2022

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Investments of about EUR 350 – 450 billion will be needed in the coming decades to maintain the current capacity of nuclear energy in the European Union, said European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson. She also stressed the importance of nuclear energy projects for energy security and energy transition in Europe.

Nuclear energy should cover 15% to 16% of the EU’s total electricity production in 2030-2050 perspective, European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson said at the European Nuclear Energy Forum in Prague.

This year, security of supply issues have followed surging energy prices, and the EU has seen how important is the availability of nuclear power, the commissioner said.

The average age of the nuclear fleet in the EU today exceeds 30 years. It will take between EUR 350-450 billion of investment in the coming decades to maintain current production capacities and replace retiring units with new reactors. Another EUR 45-50 billion in the long-term operation of existing reactors is needed.

It will take between 350 and 450 billion euros to maintain the current production capacity and replace the reactor

All of this amounts to a hugely significant level of investment, the commissioner said, adding that the cost of financing will play a key role in making nuclear energy production a competitive option.

Funding will play a key role in making nuclear energy production a competitive option

Investments are necessity, otherwise most of the nuclear power plants currently operating in the EU would have to close in the 2030s. In the coming decade, nuclear sources will be particularly needed to ensure stable electricity supplies as Europe gradually transitions to renewable sources, the EU commissioner said.

Nuclear energy for energy security

The EU needs stable production capacity in the coming decades, at the level of just over 100 GW of capacity, in the coming decades. However, it will take a lot of investment to maintain such a level of production capacity in the future.

Several EU member states are planning to expand or build new plants in the future. There are three power reactor units under construction and close to commissioning, Simson said.

Five other ongoing projects for building six more units are underway, and in the coming decades, seven member states have plans to build about 20 additional nuclear power reactor units in the EU.

Seven member states have plans to build about 20 new nuclear reactors

Simson pointed out the importance of reducing dependence on Russia in terms of nuclear energy. The maintenance of some plants also depends on Russian supplies.

EU is in situation where it has a critical dependence on Russia for nuclear fuel supply to Russian designed reactors operated in five of our Member States, said the European Commissioner for Energy.

Public and private investments

The European Commissioner for Energy pointed out that public investments in nuclear energy could get it so far. These investments are the right signals to mobilize and incentivize the private sector in the same endeavour.

That is why EU taxonomy delegated act including nuclear activities is so important. The new EU taxonomy will enter into force in January 2023. It will help the industry to upgrade safety and efficiency at sites and construct new reactors with the most advanced technologies, Simson said.

Combined with other energy sources, including renewables, nuclear energy could lead to even more efficiency gains and improve grid stability and security of supply. But nuclear power can also make a great contribution to further electrification, hydrogen production, and heat generation for buildings and industry, Simson said.

SMR nuclear technologies could be a solution for the integration of the energy system and decarbonization of the energy sector

New nuclear technologies, such as small modular reactors (SMRs), could become a solution to integrate the energy system and decarbonize the energy sectors that pose the biggest challenge, Simson noted.

The aim is to have the first European SMRs start operating at the beginning of the next decade. Because of that, in Europe, demand for this new technology is on the rise. In a wide range of EU member states, there is interest in innovative solutions SMRs can offer, the commissioner said.

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