The most encouraging news announced at the WNA Symposium held in London on September 4–6 was, perhaps, the forecast for growth of the nuclear industry until 2040. Described in the WNA’s Nuclear Fuel Report, the reference case and upper case development scenarios suggest that nuclear generation will be on the rise, while the lower case scenario expects it to have a slight downturn.
The reference scenario assumes that the number of reactor units will grow from the current 420 to 555 by 2040. According to the upper scenario, there will be 753 reactors in 2040. The lower scenario provides that the number of reactors will remain almost unchanged, with a slight decrease of about 6%. Nevertheless, it is the first time after the Fukushima accident that the industry shows a generally upward trend. For instance, the uranium output forecast, even under the lower scenario, is 10% higher than two years ago.
These positive changes are supported by a friendlier attitude towards nuclear energy from national governments. According to the report, France decided to carry over the start of its nuclear phase-out program from 2025 to 2035 and allowed operators to extend the service life of existing nuclear plants. The US government also moderated its nuclear energy policy. Not long ago, the country’s nuclear regulator permitted extension of the power plants’ service lives to 80 years. China and India are commissioning nuclear generating capacity at the fastest pace in the world. For instance, the reference case scenario provides that the total installed capacity of nuclear plants will increase from 6.2 GW to 41 GW in India and from 45 GW to 180 GW in China. Interest towards nuclear power from newcomer countries such as Uzbekistan and Poland also looks encouraging.
It became known at the symposium that other countries, apart from those mentioned in the report, were also taking interest in nuclear. For example, Australia is ready to lift the moratorium on nuclear plant construction due to its plans to decommission coal-fired power stations in 10 or more years. “The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and the IEA all say the same thing – if we are to keep temperature increases to 1.5 or 2 degrees, we’re going to need nuclear power – and lots of it. Furthermore, the coal-fired generation fleet that produces 70% of Australia’s electricity is getting old, with an average age of 34 years. Much of this capacity is due to retire over the next 10–20 years. In addition, electricity prices in Australia have increased by 90% over the past decade and the country is facing the real possibility of blackouts caused by a lack of generation capacity,” said Patrick Gibbons from the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) at the symposium.