The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog group, the International Atomic Energy Agency, said this week that the growth potential for nuclear power remains high, taking the long view, even though global expansion “is projected to slow down in coming years.”
The IAEA's report, International Status and Prospects for Nuclear Power 2017, indicates that the decline in growth “is mainly on account of early retirement or lack of interest in extending life of nuclear power plants in some countries.”
The report said nuclear power is losing its competitive edge in the short term and losing ground faster in several countries due to the political reaction to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in March 2011.
The report looked at nuclear power from three angles, including funding, future demand potential and public sentiment about nuclear power. It also considered the obstacles of safety and spent fuel management. “If nuclear power's potential as a low-carbon energy source grows in recognition and advanced nuclear designs further improve both safety and radioactive waste management, the use of nuclear power could grow significantly,” the IAEA noted.
“In some countries, concerns about climate change provide an incentive to support continued operation of nuclear power plants or are part of the argument for a new build program,” said Mikhail Chudakov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy at the IAEA.
Currently, there are more than 30 advanced water cooled reactors under construction around the world. IAEA says that global installed nuclear power capacity “in the high case,” is projected to increase by 42 percent in 2030, by 83 percent in 2040 and by 123 percent in 2050 compared to 2016 levels.
In the “low case,” the projection could see a 12 percent decline by 2030 and a 15 percent decline by 2040 before staging a comeback to current levels by 2050.
The largest decline is expected in North America followed by northern, western and southern Europe. Slight increases are expected in Africa and western Asia.
The highest growth is expected in central and eastern Asia where an increase of 43 percent is expected by 2050.
The IAEA also noted that breaking even in terms of net capacity will require new construction to make up for plants that are taken off line.
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