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IAEA Annual Projections Rise Again as Countries Turn to Nuclear for Energy Security and Climate Action

Vienna, Austria

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today released its annual outlook for nuclear power in the coming decades, revising up its global growth projections for a third straight year.

In both its high and low case scenarios, the IAEA now sees a quarter more nuclear energy capacity installed by 2050 than it did as recently as 2020, underscoring how a growing number of countries are looking to this clean and reliable energy source to address the challenges of energy security, climate change and economic development.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi announced the new projections, contained in the annual report “Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050, during the opening of the IAEA’s 2nd International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power 2023: Atoms4NetZero in Vienna.

“Climate change is a big driver, but so is security of energy supply,” Director General Grossi said in describing the reasons for the improved outlook. “Many countries are extending the lifetime of their existing reactors, considering or launching construction of advanced reactor designs and looking into small modular reactors (SMRs), including for applications beyond the production of electricity.”

In the high case scenario of the new outlook, nuclear installed capacity is seen more than doubling by 2050 to 890 gigawatts electric (GW(e)) compared with today’s 369 GW(e). In the low case, capacity increases to 458 GW(e). From last year’s outlook, the high and low cases have risen by 2% and 14%, respectively.

In 2021, the IAEA revised up its projections for the first time since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan. Since the 2020 outlook, the high case projections to 2050 have now increased by 178 GW(e), a 24% increase. The report’s low case projections have seen even higher growth of about 26%.

Amid a rapidly transforming global energy landscape, intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical situation, and military conflict, the significant increase in the capacity forecast underlines how more and more countries view nuclear energy as a resilient, reliable and low carbon energy source. The report also reflects nuclear power's importance in ensuring energy security to prevent future fluctuations in availability and prices.

Navigating the Challenges Ahead

Despite the optimistic outlook, challenges inherent in climate change, financing, economic considerations, and supply chain complexities persist and might hamper the industry’s growth. While international collaboration and other efforts are underway to overcome these obstacles, including the IAEA’s Nuclear Harmonization and Standardization Initiative (NHSI) to facilitate the deployment of safe and secure SMRs, much remains to be done to achieve a fair and enabling investment environment for new nuclear projects, according to the report.

“‘Nuclear energy or renewables’ is a false narrative,” Director General Grossi said. “Such false narratives are to the detriment of everyone, especially when it comes to achieving a fair and enabling investment environment. We are not at a level playing field yet. To get there, decisions need to be made from a technologically agnostic view that is based on science, fact and reason.”

Since it was first published over 40 years ago, the IAEA projections have been continually refined to reflect an evolving global energy context. Over the past decade, nuclear power development has remained within the range of projections described in prior editions of the annual report.

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