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IAEA Revises Nuclear Power Projections Upward

Shift Greatest for Far East

Kudankulam NPP, India

The IAEA´s revised nuclear power projections for 2030 are 8% higher than last year´s projections. In the photo, two Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs) under construction at the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, India. (Photo: K. Hansen/IAEA)

The IAEA has released the latest update of its annual projections for the future of nuclear power, and both its low and high projections for 2030 are higher than they were last year. The low projection foresees an installed global nuclear power capacity of about 510 gigawatts (GW(e)) in 2030, a 40% increase over the 370 GW(e) currently installed in 2009. The high projection foresees 810 GW(e), well more than a doubling. These revised projections for 2030 are 8% higher than last year´s projections.

The upward shift in the projections is greatest for the Far East, a region that includes China, Japan and the Republic of Korea. Modest downward shifts in the projections were made for North America and for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. For all other regions there is a generally modest upward shift. The one exception is a higher upward shift in the high projection for the Middle East and South Asia, which includes India and Pakistan. There the high projection for 2030 shifted upward by 15 GW(e).

The low projection for each region assumes that recent trends continue and there are few changes in the laws and regulations affecting nuclear power. It is intended as a conservative but plausible projection. The high projection assumes trends become more favourable for nuclear power. It assumes that recent rates of economic growth and electricity demand, especially in the Far East, continue. It also assumes that national policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are strengthened, which makes electricity generation from low-carbon technologies, like nuclear power and renewables, more attractive. The high projection is intended as an optimistic projection, from the perspective of nuclear power, that is still plausible and technically feasible.

The low and high projections are developed by experts from around the world who are assembled by the IAEA each spring. They consider all the operating reactors, possible license renewals, planned shutdowns and plausible construction projects foreseen for the next several decades. They build the projections project-by-project by assessing the plausibility of each in light of, first, the low projection´s assumptions and, second, the high projection´s assumptions.

The financial crisis that started in late 2008 has affected the prospects of some projects, but its impact has been different in different parts of the world. The regional pattern of revisions in the projections reflects, in part, the varying impacts of the financial crisis in different regions. The general upward revision in both the low and high projections reflects the experts´ judgment that the medium- and long-term factors driving rising expectations for nuclear power have not changed substantially. The performance and safety of nuclear power plants continue to be good. Concerns persist about global warming, energy supply security, and high and volatile fossil fuel prices. All studies still project persistent energy demand growth in the medium and long term.

What has changed in the last year is that the commitments of governments, utilities and vendors to their announced plans, and the investments they are already making in those plans, are generally perceived as becoming firmer over time. That raises confidence. Another change is the Safeguards Agreement between India and the IAEA in August 2008. The Nuclear Suppliers Group subsequently exempted India from previous restrictions on nuclear trade, which should allow India to accelerate its planned expansion of nuclear power.

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