COP28: 22 countries commit to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050

The United States, along with 21 other nations, pledged on Saturday to increase nuclear energy capacity threefold by 2050 at the COP28 in Dubai.

However, to achieve this target, the industry will need to overcome regulatory challenges, financial barriers, fuel supply issues, and public safety concerns that have historically led to project delays and decades of stagnation.

The deal, signed by countries including the U.S., France, Britain, and South Korea, binds these nations to mobilise investment and advocate for financial entities like the World Bank to endorse nuclear power.

It took seven decades to reach the current global nuclear capacity of 370 gigawatts (GW). Now, the industry is faced with the challenge of choosing technologies, securing funding, and establishing regulations to construct an additional 740 GW in just half that time.

Nuclear industry executives at COP28 have supported the commitment, as it aims to prolong the lifespan of existing plants, with about 200 of the 420 reactors worldwide set to be decommissioned before 2050.

Patrick Fragman, chief executive of Westinghouse, said, “Nuclear is the safest source of energy.” “Of course, for the first of their kind reactors, there were problems and cost overruns. We know: we have the scars.” Fragman continued.

The pledge faced criticism from some environmental groups due to public safety concerns, while scholars questioned the feasibility of timely plant activation to prevent a climate disaster.

“Why would anyone spend a single dollar on a technology that, if planned today, won’t even be available to help until 2035-2045?” Mark Jacobson, an energy specialist at Stanford University.

Currently, about 60 commercial nuclear reactors are being built in 17 countries globally, with China constructing 25 of them, as stated by the World Nuclear Association.

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