Quantcast
Energy

The Future of Nuclear Power Is ‘Challenging,’ Says WNA Report

By Paul Brown

The nuclear industry is celebrating breaking records that have stood for a quarter of a century—but a new update on its successes still fails to disperse the clouds over its future.

The nuclear industry provides 10 percent of the world's electricity, but its target is to supply 25 percent by 2050—requiring a massive new build program.

Ten new nuclear reactors came on line last year worldwide and more new reactors are being built than at any time since 1990. According to the report by the World Nuclear Association (WNA), there were 66 power reactors under construction across the world last year and another 158 planned. Of those being built, 24 were in mainland China.

In what it promises will be an annual update of the industry's "progress," the WNA presents a rosy picture of the future of the industry, which it hopes will produce ever-increasing amounts of the world's power.

Currently, the industry provides 10 percent of the world's electricity, but its target is to supply 25 percent by 2050—requiring a massive new build program. The plan is to open 10 new reactors a year until 2020, another 25 a year to 2030 and more than 30 a year until 2050.

Vast Increase

The industry regards this as vital to ensure that the governments of the world keep to their plan of keeping the planet from passing the internationally-agreed limit of a 2 C rise in temperatures above pre-industrial levels. It says only a vast increase in new nuclear power, combined with renewables, can achieve this.

"The World Nuclear Association's vision for the future global electricity system consists of a diverse mix of low-carbon technologies—where renewables, nuclear and a greatly reduced level of fossil fuels (preferably with carbon capture and storage) work together in harmony to ensure a reliable, affordable and clean energy supply," the report says.

Despite its optimism, the WNA admits that the situation globally for the industry is "challenging," particularly in Europe and the U.S., where low electricity prices are making nuclear power uneconomic.

The brightest prospect is China, where nuclear power is shielded from market forces. Eight new reactors were connected to the grid in 2015, with many more scheduled for construction as part of China's bid to phase out coal and improve air quality.

The largest nuclear power exporter is Russia and President Putin is offering countries generous terms, including providing the fuel for the reactors and then taking the waste back to Russia.

This plan, which ties countries into close partnerships with Russia, could be seen to pose political dangers for the countries concerned, giving Russia direct control over their energy supplies.

Many countries have chosen to ignore this potential problem. As a result, Russia's national nuclear industry is currently committed to building new reactors in China, Hungary, India and Turkey and is engaged with potential buyers in Jordan, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, South Africa and Vietnam, among others.

South Korea and India are also quoted in the WNA report as boosting nuclear power with new commitments in 2015.

In Europe and North America, however, nuclear operators are struggling. In Europe, this is mainly because of political opposition in Germany and the fact that the French nuclear industry's flagship new design, currently under construction, is badly delayed by cost overruns and time delays.

Hard to Compete

The recent UK vote to leave the European Union, which took place after the WNA report was compiled, will make this situation worse. The British plan to build 10 new reactors, including four of French design, now seems much less likely to be realized.

In North America, the success of the shale gas industry has meant that nuclear power finds it hard to compete on price.

Aside from new build, there is great emphasis in the report on the continued operation of nuclear power stations well beyond their original design life. It says that, in many cases, there is no reason why, with regular refurbishment, many nuclear reactors could not continue in service permanently. In many cases, it says, it would be cheaper to refurbish an existing station than to build a new one.

The exception is the advanced gas cooled reactors operated in the UK. These have life-limiting factors that mean they will close well before the 60-year lifespan that reactors of other designs could easily manage, the report says.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

6.5 Million People Die Each Year From Air Pollution, IEA Says

Public Lands Development Rigged in Favor of Oil and Gas

Oakland Bans Coal Exports, Huge Win for Local Residents

Germany Bans Fracking But Does It Go Far Enough?

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Science
The Ross Ice Shelf at the Bay of Whales. Michael Van Woert, NOAA

Scientists Study Ice Shelf by Listening to Its Changing Sounds

By Marlene Cimons

Researchers monitoring vibrations from Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf were flabbergasted not long ago to hear something unexpected—the ice was "singing" to them. "We were stunned by a rich variety of time-varying tones that make up this newly described sort of signal," said Rick Aster, professor of geosciences at Colorado State University, one of the scientists involved in the study.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
DSLRVideo.com / Flicker / CC BY-SA 2.0

'Go Out and Vote' Patagonia Endorses Candidates For First Time in Its History

Outdoor brand Patagonia is endorsing candidates for the first time in its history in an effort to protect the country's at-risk public lands and waters.

The civic-minded retailer is backing two Democrats in two crucial Senate races: the re-election of Sen. Jon Tester of Montana; and Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Desert Bighorn Sheep in Joshua Tree National Park. Kjaergaard / CC BY 3.0

Leaked Trump Administration Memo: Keep Public in Dark About How Endangered Species Decisions Are Made

In a Trump administration memorandum leaked to the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is directing its staff to withhold, or delay releasing, certain public records about how the Endangered Species Act is carried out. That includes records where the advice of career wildlife scientists may be overridden by political appointees in the Trump administration.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Disposable diapers add staggering amounts of waste to landfills. Pxhere

Dirty Diapers Could Be Recycled Into Fabrics, Furniture Under P&G Joint Venture

Disposal diapers can take an estimated 500 years to decompose. That means if Henry VIII wore disposables, they'd probably still be around today.

Although throwaway nappies are undoubtedly convenient, these mostly-synthetic items cause never-ending steams of waste that will take centuries to disappear.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
The swelling barrier lake after a landslide forced evacuations along the Yarlung Zangbo River. YouTube screenshot / CCTV+

6,000 Evacuated After Tibet Landslide

Six thousand people have been evacuated after a landslide in Tibet Wednesday blocked a river that flows downstream into India, creating a lake that could cause major flooding in the subcontinent once the debris is cleared, The Associated Press reported.

Chinese emergency officials announced the evacuations Thursday. The landslide impacted a village in Menling County, but no one was killed or injured, Chinese officials said.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Pexels

Carbon Capture: What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Climate Change

By Daniel Ross

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report lays out a rather grim set of observations, predictions and warnings. Perhaps the biggest takeaway? That the world cannot warm more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (1.5°C) over pre-industrial levels without significant impacts.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Fossil-fueled power plant. glasseyes view...up&away / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Trump Team Again Asks SCOTUS to Stop Youth Climate Case as Trial Nears

Once again, the Trump administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt a groundbreaking constitutional climate lawsuit brought by 21 youth plaintiffs, just over a week before the case heads to trial in Eugene, Oregon.

On Thursday, the Department of Justice filed a second "writ of mandamus" petition— an uncommonly used legal maneuver—and application for stay with the high court.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Mark Miller Photos / Photolibrary / Getty Images

Trump White House Pushes to Let Minors Spray Brain-Damaging Pesticides on Farms

The White House's just-released list of planned environmental and public health rollbacks includes letting high-school-age kids spray brain-damaging pesticides on commercial farms.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!