What place will nuclear have in the energy mix by 2040?
The debates prior to the French government drawing up its multi-annual energy programme are now in full swing and both pro- and anti-nuclear lobbies are making their voices heard. In recent weeks it has even been reported – wrongly of course – that France is the only country still envisaging the use of nuclear energy. Why is there this widespread belief that nuclear energy is on the decline worldwide? What will the energy landscape really look like in 2040?
Between now and then, the number of countries using nuclear as their main source of energy will rise from 31 to at least 36. There are currently reactors in either the launch or construction phase in France, Finland, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, Hungary, Belorussia, Ukraine, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, India, Bangladesh, China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
The national debate in France is being polarised by a Europe-centric vision. The reality is that in 2040 the main countries using nuclear energy will be, in descending order, China, the United States, France, and India and Russia (jointly positioned), whereas in 2016, the top four were the United States, France, Japan and Russia. This means we need to look beyond Europe’s borders to get a better idea of the progress of nuclear power within the global energy mix.
As well as developments in nuclear power, we also need to look at how other energy sources are progressing, particularly because the threats related to climate change are increasing. According to analyses carried out by the highly-respected International Energy Agency, although between 2016 and 2040 electricity produced from renewables is set to rise from 2,000 TWh to 9,500 TWh and nuclear power production from 2,600 TWh to 3, 800 TWh, this will not prevent more electricity being generated from fossil fuels. This therefore raises the concern that CO2 emissions will continue to increase.
And so the real debate is not “nuclear versus renewables”, as some critics of nuclear power claim, but rather “nuclear and renewables versus gas, oil and coal”. Because that’s the only alliance that will help us effectively combat climate change.
Opposing nuclear energy basically means leaving the door wide open to fossil fuels and definitively wiping out any hope of turning the tide on climate change.