Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association, told delegates at the organisation’s annual symposium in London on Thursday that the nuclear power industry ought to aim for a quarter of the global power generation mix by mid-century.
Rising cited the economic, environmental and energy security reasons the technology should come to the forefront and urged those within the industry as well as governments to act now in order to curb climate change on time.
“Nuclear electricity output is set to increase at a faster rate over the next five years than we have seen for more than two decades,” she said. “More must be done so that nuclear energy can make the contribution being asked of it, to deliver a clean, affordable and reliable electricity supply in harmony with other low-carbon options.”
“We are ready to do more – the goal is 1000 GW of new capacity by 2050.”
“There are political and regulatory barriers and cost cutting to do within the industry in terms of time and budget but we can do it. There is a good track record from the 1980s in building up nuclear – we should deliver 10 GW per year for the coming five years, 25 GW per year for the following five years and 33 GW between 2025 and 2050. That will bring together the 1000 GW required.”
In effect Rising advocates a global nuclear power capacity of an ambitious 1,250 GW by 2050, from the present 400 GW today.
She pointed out the obvious benefits electricity has made to mankind, which she said were often complacently overlooked, a fatal error with no sign of demand abating regardless of oil price spikes or any other economic shocks.
“Nuclear generation has delivered on the demand challenge for much of the last 50 years – from small beginnings, it grew rapidly through the 70s and 80s but in last 25 year has slowed and even reversed. There are signs that this course is now ending – with many countries planning to build a new generation of reactors to grow their economies.”
In his opening remarks WNA Chairman Jean-Jacques Gautrot reminded the gathering of recent IPCC recommendations ahead of COP21, which stated that to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees, ‘the use of nuclear has to be a massive part of the mitigation effort.’
“To mitigate climate change and meet demand – nuclear is one of the best answers. Access to electricity must be a universal right. 18 per cent of the world population has no access to electricity.”
Rising drew on this rationale and more in putting forward the moral imperative behind growing the sector, but warned that present progress was insufficient.
“Construction of new reactors is back to the level it reached 25 years ago, which was a record at that time but frankly it’s not nearly enough.”
She pointed to recent data released by the International Energy Agency which confirmed how badly nuclear power will be needed in terms of meeting environmental protection ambitions.
In short nuclear power generation share must grow from a current 11 per cent to 17 per cent.
“To meet the IEA’s 2 degree scenario –the nuclear share must more than double. There are retirements and a lot of new build needs to be done, and new technological advances needing to break through so can we do this? Yes, we can and we are ready to do it.”
According to the association’s forecasts, $81bn a year in investment in new nuclear plants will be required from 2014 to 2040. It used the occasion to launch its biennial Fuel Report which attempts to describe the scale of the challenge in meeting the fuel demands presented by that level of build.
To meet the pace of capacity growth, the world will likely need 103,000 tonnes of elemental uranium (tU) by 2035, up from 62,000 tU now, the report said.
Uranium production has stalled because depressed uranium prices have curtailed exploration activities and the opening of new mines.
The market should still be adequately supplied to 2025 if all planned mines and those under development start up as forecast but will need additional supplies and projects soon after 2025.
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