Nuclear power and climate change

Nuclear power is one of the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases available to generate electricity. The IAEA assists Member States that wish to introduce nuclear power and provides information to a broader audience engaged in energy, environmental and economic policy-making to support global climate change goals. 

Nuclear power makes a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide while fulfilling at the same time the increasing energy demands of a growing world population and supporting global sustainable development. Nuclear power plants produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants during their operation and only very low emission levels during their entire life cycle. As a result, the use of nuclear power avoids the emission of nearly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year – the equivalent of taking over 400 million cars off the road per year.

The Paris Agreement, signed in 2016 by 175 countries within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, calls to limit the increase in global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The Agreement points to a continued increased role in the use of nuclear power in the longer term. Its advantages in terms of climate change mitigation, as well as energy security and non-climatic environmental and socio-economic benefits, are important reasons why many countries intend to introduce nuclear power in the coming decades, or to expand existing programmes.

The IAEA provides assistance and information to countries that want to introduce nuclear power. It also makes available information to broader audiences involved in decision- and policy-making on energy, environmental and economic issues, such as its report on Climate Change and Nuclear Power. In addition, the Agency provides tools, models and publications to assist Member States with their energy planning and energy systems analysis.