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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Forecast of European nuclear energy to 2050 and an analysis of the trade-offs between nuclear energy and viable alternatives

The European energy scene is arguably going through the largest restructuring and rethinking process since the industrial revolution. The threat of climate change has pushed the European Union to position itself as a global sustainability leader with the publication of the Green Deal aiming to decarbonise the entire European economy by 2050. Decarbonisation of the energy industry is a critical milestone in achieving the Green Deal targets and while some European nations are already rapidly scaling up renewable energy sources, others are still struggling to define their energy transition paths.

In February 2022 the already challenging situation got even more escalated with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and in an attempt to isolate Russia with sanctions the Achilles’ heel of modern Europe has been revealed – dependence on Russian energy imports. Phase-out of Russian energy imports, primarily gas and oil, is now among top priorities and the entire energy transition towards 2050 is yet again being re-evaluated. Among the most controversial sources of energy is nuclear power and European leaders are yet to find a consensus about its future involvement. Germany with strong anti-nuclear positions is encouraging a complete phase-out of this non-emitting energy source while France is discussing a further expansion of nuclear power. The European continent is divided on this topic and an objective assessment of the importance of nuclear power is required.

This study analyses the current European energy scene followed by modelling of the 2050 situation. Three different scenarios with varying nuclear engagement have been defined and the 2050 share of nuclear power is predicted to be somewhere in the range of 1% to 20% of total electricity generation. A selection of the trade-offs between these scenarios is then analysed.

This study concludes that nuclear power is very important for the future of Europe and rapid action must take place to prevent an irreversible loss of over 70% of nuclear capacity by the end of this decade. Extending the operational life of nuclear reactors has been identified as a critical lever in minimising the financial and economic burdens of the European energy transition and one which will put Europe on a trajectory of challenging, yet achievable 2050 targets.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.