International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano has told the IAEA’s 56th general conference that nuclear energy will remain an ‘important option’ for many countries, despite the Fukushima Daiichi accident. His announcement came as the agency released new projections of nuclear energy capacity to 2030, which show slower growth.
In the IAEA's most recent (2012) low projection, the world's installed nuclear power capacity grows from 370 GWe today to 456 GW in 2030, diminishing by 9% from the level projected last year. In the 2012 high projection, it grows to 740 GW in 2030, about 1% less than estimated in 2011.
“Relative to projections made before the accident, the low projection has been reduced by 16% and a more moderate 8% in the high projection,” IAEA said.
This low projection is ‘conservative, but plausible’ and assumes current trends continue with few changes in policies affecting nuclear power. The high projection assumes that the current financial and economic crises will be overcome ‘relatively soon,’ that past rates of economic growth and electricity demand will resume, notably in the Far East and that there are stringent global policies to mitigate climate change.
“The low projection shows a ten-year delay in the pre-Fukushima anticipated growth, with the capacity that was projected for 2020 before the accident now being projected for 2030,” according to IAEA.
Amano noted that developing countries continue to show keen interest in nuclear power. However most growth will occur in regions that already have operating nuclear power plants.
Projected growth is strongest in the Far East, which includes China and the Republic of Korea. From 80 GW at the end of 2011, capacity grows to 153 GW in 2030 in the low projection and to 274 GW in the high.
Western Europe shows the biggest difference between the low and high projections. In the low projection, Western Europe's nuclear power capacity drops from 115 GW at the end of 2011 to 70 GW in 2030. In the high projection, nuclear power grows to 126 GW.
In North America, the low case projects a small decline, from 114 GW at the end of 2011 to 111 GW in 2030. The high projection projects an increase to 148 GW.
Other regions with substantial nuclear power programmes are Eastern Europe, which includes Russia, and the Middle East and South Asia, which includes India and Pakistan. Nuclear power expands in both regions in both the low and high projections - to levels 2-4 GW below those projected before the accident.