Nuclear energy increasing globally despite Fukushima disaster
14 June 2011
A new global report by the Economist Intelligence Unit shows nuclear power will expand in eight out of the world’s top 10 nuclear countries. In the case of China it is set to grow by more than 500 per cent. Before the devastating earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan on March 11, atomic power enjoyed a return to prominence among planners. Now, a commonly held view is that the nuclear industry will see a slowdown, if not a decline.
An analysis of the nuclear power industry in the top 10 nuclear countries by the Economist Intelligence Unit, shows that governments plan to expand the use of nuclear power in all of the 10 nuclear countries, except for Japan and Germany.
"A review of our forecasts for the 10 largest nuclear power producers—accounting for some 85 per cent of global capacity—shows that, despite Japan’s crisis, the overriding global trend over the next decade will be growth," The Future of Nuclear Energy report says.
"Today, the top 10 countries have around 320 gigawatts (gw) of nuclear infrastructure between them; by 2020, this capacity will swell to 405 gw.
"But this is only part of the picture, as countries from eastern Europe to Africa are also showing an interest in going nuclear."
The report looks at the situation in the top 10 nuclear power producing countries. It says there will be slight to moderate increases in nuclear power capacity in the current number one producer, the US, as well as in France, the Ukraine, Canada and the UK.
The increase will be more significant in South Korea, currently number six in the world, with a planned 50 per cent expansion by 2020. Meanwhile Russia, currently at number four, has a planned increase of 80 per cent. By far the biggest expansion is planned by China, currently the world’s 10th biggest producer, with an expected increase in nuclear capacity by more than 500 per cent by 2020.
"In the case of fast-growing China, nuclear energy is a response to long-term trends, and hence not easily abandoned or replaced," the Economist Intelligence Unit report says.
"The need for new sources of electricity to power economic growth persists, and the promise of nuclear in bolstering energy security and reducing carbon emissions makes it an appealing option."
Less than a week after the Fukushima crisis started, the Chinese Government announced it would suspend new nuclear construction and launch a reassessment of the 27 reactors under construction. However the report does not give the announcement much credence.
"Partly, Beijing’s decision to reassess its atomic plans was a public relations exercise designed to reassure a jittery public," the report says.
"Pausing the nuclear roll-out could also give planners a premise for scaling down their ambitious 2020 capacity target of 70 gw, compared with around 10 gw in 2010, which the Economist Intelligence Unit believes is out of reach.'
As a result, the global research group has slightly revised down China’s nuclear forecast from 70 gw to 63 gw by 2020.
Only two of the top 10 nuclear countries plan to cut back on their nuclear capacity. Japan, still reeling from its traumas, said it will not build any new reactors, whereas before the natural disaster it envisioned a new fleet. Meanwhile Germany, where burgeoning support for the abandonment of nuclear recently swung elections, now plans to phase out atomic power altogether.
The report says countries to watch are Brazil, India and Pakistan. It says the Indian government has huge plans to increase nuclear capacity in order to overcome severe power shortages. However there have been violent protests near nuclear sites, and the coastal areas where India wants to put its reactors are prone to earthquakes and flooding.
The report also raises concerns about Pakistan’s plan to increase its nuclear reactors from three to five in the next decade.
"What chiefly makes it notable is the military dimension: Pakistan’s nuclear rivalry with India elicits a hunger for fissile material," the report says."For those who worry about safety, too, Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions tend to generate sleepless nights."
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