Nuclear power is an important source of low-carbon electricity and heat that contributes to attaining carbon neutrality.
Nuclear power use has avoided about 74Gt of CO2 over the past 50 years, nearly two year's worth of total global energy-related emissions. In the UNECE region, it currently provides 20% of total generated electricity and 43% of low-carbon generation. In addition, it has the potential to increase its integration with other low-carbon energy sources in a future decarbonised energy mix.
In the UNECE region, nuclear power is an active part of the energy system, providing over 30% of electric generation in eleven countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine). Twenty countries currently operate nuclear power plants, and fifteen countries have new reactors under construction or under development. Seven UNECE member States are in the process of developing nuclear power programmes for the first time. However, some countries have chosen not to pursue nuclear power because they consider the risks of nuclear incidents and accidents to be unacceptable or because of issues linked to long-term disposal of radioactive wastes.
In many parts of the world, existing large scale nuclear power plants are a cost-competitive option for generating electricity. New innovations such as small modular reactors (SMRs) and advanced reactor technologies will open new markets including district heating, high-temperature process heat and hydrogen production. SMRs could provide electricity for small grids or remote locations and will improve the integration of variable renewable energy sources.
The UNECE nuclear power technology brief highlights the need for nations who use nuclear power to work together beyond borders. The brief is one in the series of energy technology briefs published by UNECE to help mitigate climate change and accelerate deployment of low-carbon technologies.