IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change Nuclear

Proposed and existing fossil fuel power plants could be partly replaced by nuclear power plants to provide electricity and heat. Since the nuclear plant and fuel system consumes only small quantities of fossil fuels in the fuel cycle, net CO2 emissions could be lowered significantly. Assessments of future potential for nuclear power are uncertain and controversial. The 2006 WEO Alternative scenario (IEA, 2006b) anticipated a 50% increase in nuclear energy (to 4106 TWh/yr) by 2030. The ETP report (IEA, 2006a) assumed a mitigation potential of 0.4–1.3 GtCO2 by 2030 from the construction of Generation II, III, III+ and IV nuclear plants (Section 4.3.2). From a review of the literature and the various scenario projections described above (for example Figure 4.25), it is assumed that by 2030 18% of total global power-generation capacity could come from existing nuclear power plants as well as new plants displacing proposed new coal, gas and oil plants in proportion to their current share of the baseline (Table 4.11). The rate of build required is possible (given the nuclear industry’s track record for building reactors in the 1970s) and generating costs of 25–75 US$/MWh are assumed (Section 4.4.2). However, there is still some controversy regarding the relatively low costs shown by comparative life-cycle analysis assessments reported in the literature (Section 4.4.2) and used here.

Table 4.11: Potential GHG emission reduction and cost ranges in 2030 from nuclear-fission displacing fossil-fuel power plants.

 Potential contribution to electricity mix (%) Additional generation above baseline (TWh/yr) Emissions avoided (GtCO2-eq/yr) Cost ranges (US$/tCO2-eq) 
Lowest Highest 
OECD 25 1424 0.93 -24 25 
EIT 25 345 0.23 -23 22 
Non-OECD 10 974 0.72 -21 21 
World 18 2743 1.88