Tag Archives: IAEA

Climate Change and Nuclear Power

In September 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report entitled, “Climate Change and Nuclear Power 2016.” As described by the IAEA:

“This publication provides a comprehensive review of the potential role of nuclear power in mitigating global climate change and its contribution to other economic, environmental and social sustainability challenges.”

An important result documented in this report is a comparative analysis of the life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for 10 electric power generating technologies. The IAEA authors note that:

“By comparing the GHG emissions of all existing and future energy technologies, this section (of the report) demonstrates that nuclear power provides energy services with very few GHG emissions and is justifiably considered a low carbon technology.

In order to make an adequate comparison, it is crucial to estimate and aggregate GHG emissions from all phases of the life cycle of each energy technology. Properly implemented life cycle assessments include upstream processes (extraction of construction materials, processing, manufacturing and power plant construction), operational processes (power plant operation and maintenance, fuel extraction, processing and transportation, and waste management), and downstream processes (dismantling structures, recycling reusable materials and waste disposal).”

The results of this comparative life cycle GHG analysis appear in Figure 5 of this report, which is reproduced below (click on the graphic to enlarge):

IAEA Climate Change & Nuclear Power

You can see that nuclear power has lower life cycle GHG emissions that all other generating technologies except hydro. It also is interesting to note how effective carbon dioxide capture and storage could be in reducing GHG emissions from fossil power plants.

You can download a pdf copy of this report for free on the IAEA website at the following link:


For a link to a similar 2015 report by The Brattle Group, see my post dated 8 July 2015, “New Report Quantifies the Value of Nuclear Power Plants to the U.S. Economy and Their Contribution to Limiting Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions.”

It is noteworthy that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan (CPP), which was issued in 2015, fails to give appropriate credit to nuclear power as a clean power source. For more information on this matter see my post dated 2 July 2015,” EPA Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule Does Not Adequately Recognize the Role of Nuclear Power in Greenhouse Gas Reduction.”

In contrast to the EPA’s CPP, New York state has implemented a rational Clean Energy Standard (CES) that awards zero-emissions credits (ZEC) that favor all technologies that can meet specified emission standards. These credits are instrumental in restoring merchant nuclear power plants in New York to profitable operation and thereby minimizing the likelihood that the operating utilities will retire these nuclear plants early for financial reasons. For more on this subject, see my post dated 28 July 2016, “The Nuclear Renaissance is Over in the U.S.”  In that post, I noted that significant growth in the use of nuclear power will occur in Asia, with use in North America and Europe steady or declining as older nuclear power plants retire and fewer new nuclear plants are built to take their place.

An updated projection of worldwide use of nuclear power is available in the 2016 edition of the IAEA report, “Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050.” You can download a pdf copy of this report for free on the IAEA website at the following link:


Combining the information in the two IAEA reports described above, you can get a sense for what parts of the world will be making greater use of nuclear power as part of their strategies for reducing GHG emissions. It won’t be North America or Europe.

IAEA’s Nuclear Technology Review 2016

In June 2016, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published a report by the Director General entitled, “Nuclear Technology Review 2016,” which highlights notable developments in 2015 in the following segments of the worldwide nuclear industry.

  • Power applications
    • Generation
    • Fuel cycle
    • Safety
  • Advanced fission
    • Gen III large water cooled reactors
    • Fast reactors
    • Gas-cooled reactors
    • Small & medium size reactors (SMRs)
    • Gen IV advanced reactors
  • Fusion
  • Accelerator and research reactor applications
  • Other applications
    • Emerging industrial applications of radiation technologies
    • Advances in medical imaging technology
    • Use of radiation in connection with managing mosquito disease vectors
    • Use of isotopic techniques for soil management

The following chart from the IAEA report shows the age distribution (years of operation) of the worldwide fleet of 441 operating power reactors. The median age of this fleet is about 26 years, and you can see a bow wave of aging nuclear power plants, followed by far fewer younger plants already in operation.

IAEA distribution of reactor age 2015

The following chart from the IAEA report shows the number of new plants under construction by region. As of the end of 2015, a total of 68 nuclear power plants were in various stages of their decade-long construction cycles. This chart clearly shows that Western Europe and the Americas are minor players in the construction of new reactors. Most of the new power reactor construction is occurring in Asia and Central / Eastern Europe.

IAEA reactors under construction 2015

IAEA reported that, in 2015, worldwide nuclear power generation reached 381.7 GWe. Projections for the future growth of nuclear power generation thru 2050 were given for two cases:

  • Low case: In this case, new plants just make up for the generating capacity lost from retiring plants. Projected 2050 worldwide generation: 371 GWe.
  • High case: This is a much more optimistic case, yielding about 964 GWe worldwide generation by 2050.

IAEA noted that, “The 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) resulted in the Paris Agreement that neither identifies nor excludes any particular form of energy.” The Paris Agreement does not discriminate against nuclear power as a means for reaching lower carbon emission goals. In contrast, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) euphemistically named “Clean Power Plan” fails to give appropriate credit to nuclear power as a means for utilities and states to reduce the carbon emissions from their portfolio of power plants. (See my 3 July 2015 and 27 November 2015 posts for more on CPP).

IAEA further noted the contribution of nuclear power to meeting lower carbon emission goals:

“Nuclear power has significantly contributed to climate change mitigation by avoiding nearly 2 billion tonnes (metric tons) of carbon dioxide per year. For nuclear power to help limit global warming to 2o C by 2100, its capacity would need to match the high projection to avoid nearly 6.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

Among the small and medium size reactors (SMRs), IAEA noted that the following three were under construction in 2015: Argentina’s CAREM-25, Russia’s KLT-40S, and China’s HTR-PM. Another dozen SMRs were considered to be in the advanced design stage and potentially deployable in the near-term.

IAEA maintains its Advanced Reactors Information System (ARIS), as I reported in my 13 February 2015 post. This is a very comprehensive source of information on all types of advanced reactors. You can directly access ARIS at the following link:


The “Nuclear Technology Review 2016” provides a useful overview of worldwide nuclear fuel cycle activities:

  • Worldwide uranium mining in more than 15 countries produced about 57,000 tonnes of Uranium (U) in 2015. Kazakhstan is the leading producer, followed by Canada.
  • Worldwide annual capacity for conversion of U to UF6 was about 60,000 tonnes in 2015, approximately matching annual demand. Canada, China, France, Russia, UK and U.S. operate conversion facilities.
  • Worldwide annual enriched light water reactor (LWR) fuel fabrication capacity is about 13,500 tonnes vs. an annual demand of about 7,000 tonnes. In addition, the fuel fabrication capacity for natural uranium fuel for pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) is about 4,000 tonnes vs. a demand of 3,000 tonnes. Thirteen nations produce LWR fuel, and five produce PHWR fuel.
  • Spent fuel reprocessing is being carried out in 5 nations: China, France, India, Russia and UK; with France and Russia offering reprocessing services to international customers. France and UK have the greatest capacity, reprocessing about 1,000 t HM/year.
  • IAEA reported that, “by the end of 2015, (worldwide) spent fuel in storage amounted to around 266,000 tonnes of heavy metal (t HM) and is accumulating at a rate of around 7,000 t HM/year.
  • Several nations are planning or developing their own geologic disposal facilities for spent nuclear fuel

There’s a lot more information in the IAEA report, including information on fusion, accelerators, research reactors, and industrial and medical applications of nuclear technologies. You can download this IAEA report at the following link:




Fukushima Daiichi Current Status and Lessons Learned

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) presents a great volume of information related to the 12 March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident and the current status of planning and recovery actions on their website at the following link:


From this web page, you can navigate to many resources, including: Fukushima Daiichi Status Updates, 6 September 2013 – Present. Here is the direct link to the status updates:


The IAEA’s voluminous 2015 report, The Fukushima Daiichi Accident, consists of the Report by the IAEA Director General and five technical volumes. The IAEA states that this report is the result of an extensive international collaborative effort involving five working groups with about 180 experts from 42 Member States with and without nuclear power programs and several international bodies. It provides a description of the accident and its causes, evolution and consequences based on the evaluation of data and information from a large number of sources.

IAEA Fukushima  Source: IAEA

You can download all or part of this report and its technical annexes at the following link to the IAEA website:


There have been many reports on the Fukushima Daiichi accident and lessons learned. A few of the more recent notable documents are identified briefly below along with the web links from which you can download these documents.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA):

A summary of the NRA’s perspective on Fukushima accident and lessons learned is the subject of the March 2014 presentation, “Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Accident and Responses in New Regulatory Requirements.” You can download this presentation at the following link:


 National Academy of Sciences:

The U.S. Congress asked the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a technical study on lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident for improving safety and security of commercial nuclear power plants in the U.S. This study was carried out in two phases. The Phase 1 report, Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants, was issued in 2014, and focused on the causes of the Fukushima Daiichi accident and safety-related lessons learned for improving nuclear plant systems, operations, and regulations exclusive of spent fuel storage.

NAP Fukushima Phase 1  Source: NAP

If you have a MyNAP account, you can download the Phase 1 report at the following link to the National Academies Press website:


The Phase 2 report, Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants: Phase 2, recently issued in 2016, focuses on three issues: (1) lessons learned from the accident for nuclear plant security, (2) lessons learned for spent fuel storage, and (3) reevaluation of conclusions from previous Academies studies on spent fuel storage.

NAP Fukushima Phase 2  Source: NAP

If you have a MyNAP account, you can download the Phase 2 report at the following link:


U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC):

A summary of the U.S. NRC’s response to the Fukushima accident is contained in the May 2014 presentation, “NRC Update, Fukushima Lessons Learned.” You can download this presentation at the following link:



IAEA Advanced Reactor Information System (ARIS)

Anyone interested in the current state of advanced nuclear reactor technology should  enjoy a visit to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s ARIS website.  Here’s a link to the ARIS home page:
Check out the “Publications” tab for several IAEA documents that can be downloaded as pdf files for free.  I recommend one document in particular: “Status of Small and Medium Sized Reactor Designs, “ published in September 2011.  This document contains 1-page summaries of 31 small and medium reactor designs from around the world, each with a small color picture.  I was a bit surprised by the very large number of designs and the diverse technologies embodied in these nuclear power plants.  If you’re really interested in how much small and medium reactors have advanced in the past 16 years, you can compare this 2011 document with the similar, but much more detailed, 1995 IAEA document: IAEA-TECDOC-881, “Design and Development of Small and Medium Reactor Systems 1995,” which you can download as a pdf file for free at the following link: