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Nuclear´s Great Expectations

Projections Continue to Rise for Nuclear Power, but Relative Generation Share Declines

Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant

According to the IAEA´s 2008 high projection, growth in nuclear generation will match the 3.2% per year growth in overall generation. In the photo, the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, Czech Republic. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

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.

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.

"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.

The main reason that nuclear generation dropped was an earthquake in western Japan on 16 July 2007, which shut down all seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant - the seven units total 8.2 GW(e), almost one sixth of Japan´s nuclear capacity. There were also several other unusual outages and reductions experienced in Korea and Germany. Finally, the increases in the load factor for the current fleet of reactors appear to have plateaued.

According to the IAEA´s 2008 high projection, growth in nuclear generation will match the 3.2% per year growth in overall generation, and nuclear power´s share therefore will hold steady at 14%. In the low projection, overall electricity growth is lower, but nuclear power´s growth is lower still, and by 2030 nuclear power´s share of global electricity is projected to drop to about 12.5%.

Background

Every year since 1981 the IAEA has published two updated projections for the world´s nuclear power generating capacity, a low projection and a high projection.

The low projection is a business-as-usual projection. The high projection, on the other hand, takes into account government and corporate announcements about longer-term plans for nuclear investments as well as potential new national policies.

A team of experts from all regions of the world contributes to formulating the projections.

See Story Resources for more information.