All Signs Point to Nuclear: A Look Back at 2022

All Signs Point to Nuclear: A Look Back at 2022

Emma Derr  | NEI
December 15, 2022 

This year saw many major world events. Russia invaded Ukraine—the largest military attack in Europe since WWII. Our world continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as inflation, and the UN talked climate at the annual COP meeting in Egypt. Against the background of geopolitical upheaval and climate despair, 2022 witnessed hope for climate, energy, and security stability. 

We saw five big themes emerge in 2022, and nuclear connects to every one of them. 

1. Nuclear Energy Is Essential to Energy Security 
The tragic invasion of Ukraine and its aftermath has reminded the world that energy supply relationships have important national security ramifications, and for Russia and China, energy exports are a strategic tool for geopolitical leverage. In the face of possible blackouts and high gas prices, nuclear provides a valuable level of stability from daily price fluctuations, supply disruptions, and geopolitical instability. 

This could not be a more serious moment for the climate crisis or our energy security, and nations are more secure with nuclear in their energy portfolio—especially with the U.S. as their chosen partner.

2. Nuclear Plays a Critical Role in Climate Commitments
Climate goals are looming, and it has become clearer than ever that nuclear energy is an essential part of the decarbonization solution. At COP27, 24/7 carbon-free was a hot topic, as was the fact that technology-inclusive strategies that value around-the-clock, clean energy like nuclear are at the core of rapidly decarbonizing electricity systems. The urgency of the task ahead was echoed at other 2022 events, such as the Global Clean Energy Action Forum.

“Nuclear energy is no longer left on the sidelines, but a central part of the climate and energy security conversations happening at critical international meetings,” said NEI President and CEO Maria Korsnick

3. Public Policy Signals Point to Nuclear
This was an unprecedented year for smart energy policy. Nuclear was at the center of “the biggest step forward on climate ever,” the Inflation Reduction Act. The provisions included in the legislation will allow our existing nuclear plants to continue providing carbon-free energy and high-paying jobs, as well as encourage the deployment of advanced reactors.

It wasn’t just federal action though—we also saw increasing momentum in state policy. In recent years, we’ve seen ten times more action in the statesand more than 100 bills supporting nuclear

4. ESG & Financing Trend Toward Valuing Nuclear
The energy transition will require immense financing, and ESG & sustainability funds are increasingly dictating where this money goes. According to a new report by the Center for ESG and Sustainability (CESG), nuclear energy is a strong performer when analyzed against ESG standards. 

Governments across the globe are also recognizing nuclear’s strong performance as they continue to codify their sustainable taxonomies. In July, the European Union (EU) voted to formally include nuclear energy in its EU Taxonomy, and South Korea recently included nuclear in a draft of their K-Taxonomy. Canada’s Ontario Power Generation (OPG) also added nuclear to its green bond framework this year.

5. Demand for New Nuclear Is High
When it comes to new nuclear, the challenge isn’t demand—it’s being able to build fast enough to meet demand. This year NEI polled Chief Nuclear Officers at our member utilities. Together, they are expecting to add 90 gigawatts of nuclear power to the grid in the U.S.—the bulk of that coming online by 2050. That translates to about 300 new small modular reactors in the next 25 years, which would double today’s U.S. nuclear output. And this is a conservative estimate, which doesn’t account for the positive impacts of nuclear’s big wins in Congress. This demand is present in the U.S. but also around the world, as countries such as South Korea, Czech Republic, Poland, England, and more are committing to new builds.

Demand is also being driven by nuclear’s potential for decarbonization beyond the electrical grid. Advanced reactors can power carbon-free hydrogen and ammonia production, as well as provide high-temperature heat that can decarbonize heavy industrial processes. Entire industries are recognizing nuclear’s ability to reduce or erase their carbon footprints. This year we saw commitments from industrial customers such as Dow Chemicaland Nucor to drive down emissions using advanced nuclear. 

Stay tuned for a look ahead on what’s to come as we prepare to meet this demand by building our workforce, securing our fuel supply, and procuring the investment necessary to reach net zero.