Nuclear is here to stay

Worldwide use of nuclear energy will continue to grow despite the Fukushima Daiichi accident, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told a meeting of its Board of Governors.

The number of operating nuclear reactors is expected to increase by 90-350 before the year 2030, compared to the current total of 432 reactors. The difference in projections mirror the problems the nuclear energy industry is facing, with many countries still at a standstill, waiting to understand if the expected technological progresses will answer all security isues.If they all should start – or restart, depending on the individual situation – their nuclear programs, the maximum expansion of 350 new reactors might be reached.

“This represents continuous and significant growth in the use of nuclear power, but at a slower growth rate than in our previous projections” Amano told the board of governors.

Most of this growth will occur in countries already operating nuclear power plants, especially in Asia. The two giants, China and India will remain the main centers of expansion and their nuclear power capacities by 2030 are expected to be as projected before the accident, after a temporary period of slower growth.

According to Amano, interest remains strong in countries considering introducing nuclear energy, as the factors that contributed to increasing interest in nuclear energy before the accident have not changed: increasing global demand for energy; concerns about climate change; dwindling reserves of oil and gas; and uncertainty of supply of fossil fuels.

In order to relaunch the nuclear energy market, though, strong and quick improvements in nuclear safety are needed to restore public confidence in nuclear power.

Amano said that the IAEA has been continuing its work to set up a low-enriched uranium (LEU) bank and in May invited expressions of interest from member states willing to host such a bank. In July, Kazakhstan offered two sites for consideration, which an IAEA technical mission visited in August to review the offer. “We are discussing relevant technical matters with the government of Kazakhstan with a view to finalizing a decision on a site,” he told the board.

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