Is the nuclear renaissance back on?
A new report from London-based business intelligence firm GlobalData would suggest it is, triggered in large measure by a demand for power from emerging markets and from some 45 countries that have yet to deploy it.
“Global nuclear energy generation will climb by almost 30% by the end of the decade, thanks in part to an influx of new nations developing nuclear programs,” GlobalData says in a press release.
It forecasts that 198 new reactors will begin commercial operations by 2020, by which time worldwide nuclear generation will jump to 3.1 million GWh, up from 2.4 million GWh in 2012.
“At present there are around 45 nuclear-free countries looking at adding the controversial power source to their energy portfolio, including the UAE, Turkey, Poland and Bangladesh,” GlobalData notes.
China, India and South Korea will lead the surge, as nuclear generation in the Asia Pacific region will jump from 324,000 GWh last year to 852,000 GWh by 2020, GlobalData says.
In China alone,the World Nuclear Association (WNA) has identified 79 nuclear reactors either under construction or planned, and another 86 proposed, for a total of about 165 reactors. WNA’s World Nuclear Fuel Cycle 2013 conference in Singapore next month will include presentations from Asian countries not generally known as nuclear energy centers, such as Bangladesh and Vietnam.
Growth in those nations contrasts sharply with some Western countries like Germany, which decided to abandon nuclear power after the meltdowns at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi reactors following the tragic tsunami and earthquake two years ago.
A 30 percent expansion indicates that the nuclear renaissance which was building prior to Fukushima is returning.
The reasons for a nuclear revival are just as compelling now as they were pre-Fukushima: Nuclear provides a low carbon energy to help combat climate change, is not subject to price volatility the way fossil fuels are, and offers a steady supply of baseload power, unlike intermittent renewables like wind and solar.
Such mounting interest should help underpin research, development and ultimately, deployment of alternative forms of nuclear power that can improve on the safety, efficiency and waste of conventional reactors. These would include thorium fuel, as well as reactors built on molten salt, pebble bed, “fast” and fusion designs, among others.
Map from greenwichmeantime.com