Nuclear Grows Despite Fukushima Disaster

Nuclear power development across the globe continues to thrive despite the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. This is according to Mr Krill Komarov, Rosatom’s Deputy Director General for International Business and Development, who explains why nuclear development will never be completely phased out.
Published: Wed 30 Jan 2013

Nuclear power continues to play a major role in the energy sector, generating around 13% of the world’s electricity. Due to the volatility of hydrocarbon markets and the concern surrounding carbon emissions (thanks to fossil fuels), it is essential that the world develops alternative generation methods such as solar, wind, geothermal and nuclear power. In a bid to adhere to carbon emission targets and ensure energy security, governments are leaning towards nuclear power development. This is perhaps surprising since the Fukushima nuclear accident occurred only two years ago and Japan is still licking its wounds.

Nuclear safety a big Issue

Mr Komarov says that although the construction of new nuclear power plants will continue in the future, safety requirements have become tougher. Clients expect the power plant to be equipped with a combination of highly-effective safety systems, both passive and active. For the client, safety must be all-encompassing. Komarov explains how two new power plants, ordered by Czechoslovakia, had to be able to withstand being hit by a falling aeroplane. Requirements for the effectiveness of nuclear power are also growing. Countries want to extend the service life of their existing plants and cut the cost and construction periods for new plants. Although these requirements result in very difficult tasks for vendor companies, they are positive for the market as they force nuclear development forms to be even more effective, flexible and competitive.

No drop in nuclear energy development

The nuclear power community was expecting a significant drop in nuclear development after the tragic nuclear accident in Japan. However, Komarov says that Fukushima “did not cause a serious dent in the positive development trend that the global nuclear power was experiencing.” According to the latest predictions made by experts, the total capacity of nuclear power plants across the world will equal around 590GW by 2030. This represents a mere 11% reduction in capacity compared to the period immediately before Fukushima.  Komarov cites the global financial crisis and governments’ role in implementing nuclear projects, as bigger culprits for slow nuclear power development.

Komarov doesn’t deny that various governments around the world announced their intention to reject nuclear power but he explains that some countries, like Germany, were already in the process of phasing out nuclear power prior to the disaster. He adds that Germany’s nuclear phase out will cost the country US$49.53bn (€37bn)-money that could have built 12GW of nuclear capacity. While some countries are pulling back from nuclear, others such as South Africa and Saudi Arabia are knocking at the door.

Experts predict that over 90% of demand for nuclear energy comes from China, India and other countries that are not part of the OECD. Over the next few decades, Asian countries will provide for the increase in generation capacity. Estimates show that the total volume of installed capacity at nuclear power plants in the region will grow by 2.8 times by the year 2030, rising substantially from 84GW in 2010 to 237GW in 2030.

The State Atomic Energy Corporation ROSATOM incorporates more than 250 enterprises and scientific institutions, including all civil nuclear companies of Russia, nuclear weapons complex’s facilities, research organizations and the world’s only nuclear-propelled fleet. ROSATOM is the largest utility in Russia which produces over 40 % of electricity in the country’s European part. ROSATOM holds leading positions in the world market of nuclear technologies being the 1-st in the world simultaneous nuclear build abroad; 2-nd in uranium reserves and 5-th in uranium mining; 4-th in nuclear electricity generation, while providing 40% of the world uranium enrichment services and 17% of the world nuclear fuel market. ROSATOM is also tasked to fulfill Russia's international obligations in the field of the peaceful uses of atomic energy and nuclear nonproliferation regime.

Rosatom boasts a portfolio of orders totalling US$70bn. The firm is currently carrying out projects for the construction of 28 nuclear power plant units, 19 of which are being built overseas. In addition, the firm delivers nuclear fuel for 76 reactors in 15 countries.

Engerati Analysis

Nuclear power continues to form a crucial part of many countries’ energy mix despite safety concerns. Lessons learnt from the Fukushima disaster seem to have boosted governments’ confidence in nuclear power, hence the continued growth. This renewed confidence can be seen in Japan as the Liberal Democratic party sets the stage for a return to Japan’s former policy of promoting nuclear power as a major source of energy generation. For Japan, the return to nuclear power is crucial to its economic recovery. If countries are considering nuclear power, strict safety measures must be adhered to and communicated to the public in order to win public confidence.

Sources                                                     

Nuclear Power Asia-Rosatom Overseas-Interview with Mr Krill Komarov