August 3, 2012
World Moves Forward with Nuclear Energy
By Edward Davis
The writer is President of the Pegasus Group, a consulting firm
In retrospect, last year’s Fukushima accident looks like a speed bump in terms of the anticipated future worldwide growth in nuclear power.
Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in conjunction with the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), issued its annual “Redbook’’ which is the agency’s official forecast for growth in the number of nuclear plants and their related nuclear fuel and enrichment services requirements. The IAEA forecast confirms that the world post-Fukushima continues planning on building a record number of additional nuclear power plants worldwide. Currently, there are some 433 nuclear power plants operating worldwide and 61 nuclear power plants under construction.
According to the recently released report, worldwide growth of installed nuclear power generation is expected to grow from the current level of 375 GWe to 540 GWe in IAEA’s low case and 746 MWe in its high case. This represents a growth rate in nuclear generating capacity of 44% to 99% worldwide, little changed from the agency’s previous forecast prior to the accident. Most industry experts have estimated that the Fukushima accident would result in a 10-15 percent reduction in the nuclear power generation worldwide.
The IAEA projections are consistent with other industry and government projections. The World Nuclear Association (WNA) in its reference case projects 614 GWe of net nuclear capacity will be on line by 2030 for a forecasted growth of approximately 44%.
Most of the forecasted growth in nuclear power generation is slated to occur outside the U.S. Currently, the U.S. has approximately 101 GWe of installed nuclear generating capacity and, according the WNA forecast, U.S. capacity grows to 116 GWe by 2030 for only a modest grow of around 15%. In contrast, growth outside the U.S. is projected to grow by 498 GWe, or just over 80 percent!
Worldwide, China has the largest forecasted growth of any country growing from 10.1 GWe in 2011 to 135.7 GWe . This is a grow rate of 1,343% over the period! At this rate, China will have the largest number of nuclear plants and will have surpassed the U.S. in installed nuclear power capacity.
There is a message for U.S. policy makers in the projections of new nuclear power plant additions. The worldwide consensus is that nuclear energy is an important resource for future electricity supply and will be called on to provide an increasing share of generating electricity worldwide. Without a national energy policy that fosters the construction of additional nuclear plants here at home, the U.S. is likely to fall further and further behind the world and therefore will have less and less influence on how nuclear energy is produced and how sensitive nuclear fuel services, like enrichment and reprocessing, are deployed.