WWF: Nuclear path to net-zero is a ‘false narrative’

Posted on March, 20 2024

Ahead of Nuclear Energy Summit in Brussels, WWF argues that building nuclear power generation is too slow, too expensive and too risky.

(GLAND, Switzerland) 20 March 2024 - World leaders will gather in Brussels tomorrow for a Nuclear Energy Summit aimed at identifying a role for nuclear energy in the energy transition, addressing energy security and boosting economic development. The meeting is hosted by Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, and the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi. 


It comes on the heels of a new coalition of more than 20 countries aligned on a Declaration to Triple Nuclear Energy, launched at the UN climate talks in Dubai last year. A core element of the declaration is for coalition members to work together to advance a goal of tripling nuclear energy capacity globally by 2050.


However, WWF argues that the idea that nuclear energy can play a key role in reaching the net-zero emissions long-term goal of the Paris Agreement, is a false narrative.


Dean Cooper, WWF Global Lead Energy, says: “Let’s be clear – there’s no new dawn for nuclear energy. The truth is that the construction of new nuclear power generation capacity is too slow, too expensive, and too risky to make a difference. It also diverts efforts away from real solutions that are more affordable and will deliver faster. Nuclear energy cannot, and must not, be considered part of the urgently required energy transition. Rather, governments must prioritize investments towards energy efficiency and deploying renewables, such as wind and solar, to decarbonize the grid. These are proven solutions and are currently the cheapest and most sustainable forms of energy.


Stephan Cornelius, WWF Global Deputy Climate and Energy Lead said: “New national climate plans (or Nationally Determined Contributions, NDCs) are our roadmap to swiftly slashing greenhouse gas emissions to steer the world to a 1.5°C future. At COP28, world leaders committed to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency – this is our priority. Nuclear power is not in the answer, especially for vulnerable communities who suffer the worst impacts of climate change. Governments must prioritize affordable, sustainable solutions which do the least harm to people and nature.”


Notes for editors:

  1. Global annual renewable capacity additions increased by almost 50% in 2023, the fastest growth rate in the past two decades. This is the 22nd year in a row that renewable capacity additions set a new record. Globally, solar PV alone accounted for three-quarters of renewable capacity additions worldwide (IEA), enabled by plummeting costs.
  2. In 2003, nuclear power generated ~16% of global electricity. Since then, nuclear power has fallen to ~10% of global electricity, and in the absence of significant, successful new-builds, the average age of operating nuclear power plants is now ~31 years old (WWF).
  3. Nuclear as a viable energy source has been elevated in global conversations since the energy crisis sparked by the war in Ukraine.  
  4. WWF supports the global climate goals of reducing global emissions by at least 43% by 2030, and 60% by 2035, and net-zero by 2050. The path to net-zero remains uncertain, however, as many prominent net-zero pathways feature a role for nuclear, including the doubling of nuclear power by 2050. 
  5. WWF does not support the development of new nuclear plants, as nuclear cannot be delivered at speed and at a viable cost for the rapid energy transition required to keep global warming to 1.5℃.
  6. WWF supports the extension of the life-span of existing nuclear plants that fulfil the highest safety standards only if the replacement electricity will be based on fossil fuels.


For more information, contact:

Robin Harvey rharvey@wwfint.org 

WWF global media team news@wwfint.org

Mandy Woods mwoods@wwfint.org  

Nuclear power plant
© Marcus Distelrath / Pixabay