Nuclear power, which Germany and Switzerland plan to exit following Japan’s Fukushima disaster, is needed to meet world energy demand and cut carbon emissions, according to the head of the International Energy Agency.
“We need it,” Maria van der Hoeven, the agency’s executive director, said in an interview in her Paris office days after taking the helm of the adviser to 28 energy-consuming nations. “Nuclear power is necessary for our energy future.”
The share of atomic power globally will increase from 6 percent in 2008 to 8 percent in 2035, the agency forecast in its 2010 World Energy Outlook, published in November before Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant was devastated by a March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Demand for electricity is expected to grow faster than any other form of energy, with a tripling in China over the period, the report said.
The Japanese crisis triggered public protests in Europe against atomic power and prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, one of 14 European Union nations that generate nuclear energy, to decide to permanently halt all reactors by 2022. Switzerland, a non-EU member, also decided to phase out atomic power and Italy scrapped a project to develop reactors.
The IEA’s upcoming outlook, to be published in November, will examine the effects of a “low-nuclear scenario,” according to Van der Hoeven. “It will show what will happen if nuclear is not going to be part of the energy mix anymore.”
“What we see in Germany is that there will be greater coal and gas and imports from France of nuclear energy,” said the former Dutch economy minister, who will be based in a country that relies on nuclear output from 58 reactors for more than three-quarters of its needs.
France has criticized the German decision. French ministers and lawmakers have said the resulting lower generating capacity will make Germany more reliant on French nuclear power, possibly putting strain on European power markets.
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