The world’s nuclear power generating capacity is expected to grow from 373 GWe today to at least 435 GWe in 2030, according to the latest low-case projection from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In the high case, installed capacity could almost double by 2030, reaching 722GW.

The figures were released in the agency’s 2013 publication Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050Both projections have fallen by around 20GW compared with 2012, although IAEA noted that the decline (which was around 5%) was less than it has been in previous two years (when it was 8-9%).

The agency said in a statement that "growth in nuclear power following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident is expected to continue, however at a rate lower than estimated prior to the accident."

Growth is expected to be strongest in Asia, particularly China and South Korea, with capacity expected to grow from 83 GWe at the end of 2012 to 147 GWe in 2030 in the low projection and to 268 GWe in the high projection.

Eastern Europe, which includes Russia, as well as the Middle East and South Asia, which includes India and Pakistan, also shows strong growth potential, according to the IAEA report. Nuclear capacities grow from 48 GWe in 2012, to 79 GWe and 124 GWe in the low and high cases, respectively.

Western Europe shows the biggest difference between the low and high projections. In the low projection, Western Europe’s nuclear power capacity almost halves from 114 GWe at the end of 2012 to 68 GWe in 2030. In the high projection, nuclear power grows slightly to 124 GWe.

In North America, the low case projects a small decline, to 101 GWe in 2030, while the high projection shows an increase of about 25% from 116 GWe at the end of 2012 to 143 GWe.

Market challenges

In addition to the Fukushima effect, IAEA said that over the short term, the low price of natural gas and the promotion of renewable energy sources in some energy policies are expected to impact nuclear growth prospects in several regions of the developed world. Moreover, the on-going financial crisis continues to present challenges for capital intensive projects such as nuclear power.

Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050 can be downloaded here.

Graph: Regional breakdown of the high-case projection (total 722 GW) (Source: IAEA)