Nuclear Power for the Next Generation

Published Date: Updated 14 June 2013

 Approximately 1.4 billion people today have no access to electricity in their daily lives. Yet, if the United Nations is to reach its Millennium Development Goals, these people will need that energy. Halving poverty, improving nutrition, health, education and equality of the sexes will otherwise remain out of reach. Photo Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank Energy frees people, particularly women and children, from collecting firewood and enables them to accomplish more. Photo Credit: Dean Calma/IAEA Energy extends the day. With energy, education, or work, can take place in the evening. Photo Credit: Gennadiy Ratushenko/World Bank Energy is used to pump fresh water for drinking... Photo Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank ...or for irrigation in agriculture. Photo Credit: Edwin Huffman/World Bank Energy connects small businesses to their markets. Rodolfo Quevenco/IAEA Energy is essential to adequate health care. Photo Credit: Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank Over and above this challenge, countries are also faced with projections that global energy demand will rise by more than 50% by 2030, with some 70% or so of that increase seen coming from developing countries. Rising power demands, concerns about climate change, volatile fossil fuel prices, and security of energy supply are factors that contribute to nations deciding to expand or introduce nuclear power.  These countries seek guidance from the IAEA on ensuring nuclear power is used safety, securely and sustainably. (New nuclear power plant construction at Barakah Nuclear Facility, United Arab Emirates Photo: ENEC) The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in March 2011 caused anxiety about nuclear safety throughout the world and raised questions about the future of nuclear power.  The IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety was launched in September 2011. Effective steps have been taken to make nuclear power plants safer everywhere, useful lessons have been learned and information and experience have been extensively shared. For instance, at the Bohunice Nuclear Power Plant in the Slovak Republic, this specialised fire fighting pump engine has been acquired in order to strengthen emergency response by increasing the power plant’s capacity to provide cooling. Photo: Louise Potterton, IAEA Two years after the Fukushima accident, it is clear that the use of nuclear power will continue to grow in the coming decades, although growth will be slower than was anticipated before the accident. (New nuclear power plant construction at Barakah Nuclear Facility, United Arab Emirates Photo: ENEC) There are hurdles. Introducing a nuclear power programme means devoting as much as 10 to 15 years to preparation, planning and development, before the electricity can flow; this timeline means nuclear power won’t solve immediate energy needs. From the decision to launch a programme, governments are making a commitment that will last at least a century. It includes the responsible handling of a wide range of issues, such as safety and security, as well as waste disposal and decommissioning. A nuclear power plant’s costs are front-loaded and can, therefore, be hard to finance. Photo Credit: Forschungszentrum Juelich GmbH There are also advantages. Nuclear power delivers a stable, predictable supply of energy for several decades, and emits few pollutants or the greenhouse gases that are driving global warming. Dean Calma/IAEA The IAEA helps countries evaluate their energy supply and demand and make their own educated decisions about future power supply through the use of a set of technologically neutral computer programs. Photo Credit: Dana Smillie/World Bank Should countries opt for nuclear power, the IAEA offers detailed guidance to help them successfully, responsibly and sustainably introduce nuclear power. Dean Calma/IAEA