September 13, 2008
IAEA Sees Nuclear Power Growth To 2030

The UN International Atomic Energy Agency expects more growth in nuclear power to 2030.

The IAEA has revised upwards its nuclear power generation projections to 2030, while at the same time it reported that nuclear´s share of global electricity generation dropped another percentage point in 2007 to 14%. This compares to the nearly steady share of 16% to 17% that nuclear power maintained for almost two decades, from 1986 through 2005.

Part of the drop in nuclear power's electric generation marketshare comes from an earthquake in Japan that took several nuclear power plants off-line. But I suspect very rapid coal electric power plant construction in China played a role as well. The Chinese are cranking out the coal plants. If they switched to cranking out nuclear power plants instead the air of the world would be a lot cleaner.

The IAEA thinks the number of nuclear power plants will go up in the next 20 or so years. But they aren't sure by how much. But even their high case isn't enough to make much of a dent in the enormous growth in coal electric power plant construction.

In its 2008 edition of Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period to 2030, the IAEA expects global nuclear power capacity in 2030 to range from a low case scenario of 473GW(e), some 27% higher than today´s 372 GW(e), to a high case scenario of 748 GW(e), i.e., double today´s capacity.

In the US alone coal produces about two and a half times more electricity than nuclear. In China coal accounts for 4/5ths of total electric power generation and in July 2008 electric power generation was up by 8.1% over a year earlier. That's coal growth and shows how far nuclear power is from displacing coal. Still, at least projections for future nuclear power growth are up.

"Over the last five years projections have gone up for several reasons," said Hans-Holger Rogner, Head of the IAEA´s Nuclear Energy Planning and Economic Studies Section.

"Performance has improved greatly since the 1980s, and the safety record of the types of reactors on the market today is excellent. In addition, the average load factor of the global reactor fleet has increased from 67% in 1990 to more than 80% since early 2000. Rising costs of the dominant alternatives, particularly natural gas and coal, energy supply security and environmental constraints are also factors that are contributing to nuclear´s appeal."

The report´s projections reflect major expansion plans that are under way in key countries like China and India, and new policies and interest in nuclear power that are emerging in countries like the UK and USA.

But while projections for nuclear power´s future rose, its share of the world´s electricity generation today dropped from 15% in 2006 to 14% in 2007.

"The reason is that while total global electricity generation rose 4.8% from 2007 to 2008, nuclear electricity actually dropped slightly," Rogner commented.

I expect an increase in interest in nuclear power in Europe due to Russia's conflict with Georgia. Europe suffers from a compact geography and northern location that place limits on how big a role solar power can play. The compact geography and dense population also place limits on wind's potential. So nuclear seems especially necessary in Europe.

Brazil is embracing a nuclear future.

SÃO PAULO, 9/12/08 - The Brazilian Mines and Energy minister, Edison Lobão, said today in Angra dos Reis (state of Rio de Janeiro) that Brazil has already decided to give priority to the resumption of the country's nuclear program. Some 60 nuclear power plants should be built in the next 50 years. Each unit should have generation capacity for 1,000 megawatts.

Will the cost of coal get bid up so high that nuclear power becomes more competitive? Coal supplies probably will have the biggest effect on the future of nuclear power. Once world oil production starts declining the demand for coal for use in coal-to-liquid processing to make liquid fuels for transportation might drive up the price of coal high enough to make nuclear power more cost competitive. Also, political pressures to lower carbon dioxide emissions might help nuclear power.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 September 13 10:30 PM  Energy Nuclear

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