This policy brief, from Harvard University, explores research and development (R&D), cost and performance issues that the nuclear power sector needs to consider if the industry is to meet the growing demand for carbon-free energy. Based on surveys it offers estimates of the costs and performance of this research, and potential benefits that could be gained over the next 20 years.

A key finding is that current levels of public investment in nuclear power technologies will not lead to a major reduction of the cost of nuclear plants by 2030. Instead, many of today’s R&D programmes are focused on capabilities such as extending uranium resources or improving waste management and safety. The authors acknowledge that the Fukushima accident has highlighted the need for better preparedness and has undermined confidence in nuclear energy. The report concludes that development of nuclear power should address issues aside from R&D such as getting public acceptance and support from governments.