Industry must address costs, says Vattenfall CEO

06 September 2019

Nuclear must be part of a fossil-free future, but the industry first needs to address the cost of constructing new reactors, Magnus Hall, CEO of Swedish utility Vattenfall AB, told delegates attending World Nuclear Association Symposium 2019 in London.

Magnus Hall addressing World Nuclear Association Symposium 2019 (Image: World Nuclear Association)

Hall - who is also chairman of Eurelectric, the association of European electricity generators - said that climate change and energy are the two main issues that humanity faces. "The business we are in is really at the centre of that discussion," he said.

Vattenfall has committed to be fossil-free within one generation. "The basis for this whole strategy is that we believe strongly in electrification. There is a clear view, not only from Vattenfall but also from Eurelectric, that electrification is the solution to Europe's problem with CO2."

The industry has three tasks, he said. The first is to get electrification into climate change and energy policies. The second is that utilities make a commitment to become fossil-free. Renewables are going to be a big part of the development to go fossil-free, but nuclear energy must also be included in the energy mix. "If we take nuclear away, we will not find a solution," he said. The third task is to ensure this transition is affordable for consumers. "If we do not make that happen, then we will not succeed."

Nuclear energy is often said to be too expensive, he said, but system costs need also to be consdered. "There is a very good business case to argue that nuclear as part of the system is [already] there and that we need it for the future."

When it comes to building new capacity, a new set of international standards is needed so that suppliers can be confident their products meet requirements and that they will be able to make money, he said.

"We currently have a situation where the cost of constructing a new reactor ends up being two or three times as much as the initial calculation. That cannot go on," he said. "From our side, we are going to put efforts into pushing this. This is a common issue we have to work on. I'm sure we can also work with regulators ... in order to address that issue because we all believe that the industry has - and must have - a future.

"If we can do this on a scaled basis, there is no reason not to believe that the costs for building could come down significantly. We really need to look at this issue in order to be able to firstly prolong the lifetime of what we have, and when we come into a cycle of where we need to rebuild or build new reactors, we need to be prepared so that we can do that in a good fashion."

Nuclear nonetheless has a "renewed future", Hall said. "We have all the reasons to believe that we should speak much more openly about nuclear as being part of the future energy system."

Researched and written by World Nuclear News