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IAEA: Nuclear Expansion to Continue Despite Fukushima

The following news article originally appeared in NEI’s Nuclear Energy Overview.

The use of nuclear energy will continue to increase globally, even though last year’s accident in Japan has curbed expansion, the International Atomic Energy Agency says.

“The Fukushima Daiichi accident resulted in a slowing of the expansion of nuclear power but did not reverse it,” the IAEA’s annual report for 2011 says. “Nuclear power remains an important option for countries, and interest in nuclear power remains high.”

Most countries that were planning to begin nuclear power programs before the accident intend to continue, the report says.

“Of the countries without nuclear power that, before the Fukushima Daiichi accident, had strongly indicated their intention to proceed with a nuclear power program, a few cancelled or revised their plans while others took a ‘wait and see’ approach,” the report adds, “but most continued their programs to introduce nuclear power.”

The IAEA projects that seven to as many as 20 countries will bring their first reactors on line before 2030. Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Bangladesh and Vietnam all made significant progress in 2011 toward starting their own domestic nuclear industries.

Still, “most of the growth will likely occur in countries that already have operating nuclear power plants, and [IAEA] member states in Asia as well as the Russian Federation are expected to be the centers of expansion,” the report says.

Sixty-four reactors were under construction at the end of 2011. Of those, 26 are in China, 10 in Russia, six in India and five in South Korea.

The rate of growth has slowed somewhat because of the accident in Japan. The agency estimates that by 2030 the use of nuclear energy will be 7 percent to 8 percent lower than its pre-accident estimates.

An international group of experts assembled by the IAEA completed high and low estimates for the growth of nuclear power. In the low estimate, the number of operating nuclear reactors is projected to increase by about 90 by 2030, for a total installed capacity of 501 gigawatts. In the high estimate, the number of operating nuclear reactors would increase by about 350 reactors by 2030, and total installed capacity to 746 gigawatts.

At the end of 2011, the report says, there were 435 power reactors in operation worldwide with a total capacity of 369 gigawatts, 2 percent less than at the beginning of the year. The decrease was due to the permanent retirement of 13 reactors—the four damaged at Fukushima Daiichi, eight closed by the government in Germany, and one retired in the United Kingdom.

However, the report also notes that seven new reactors were connected to the grid in 2011, an increase from five new reactors in 2010, two in 2009 and none in 2008.

The IAEA’s Annual Report for 2011 will be presented at the agency’s annual General Conference, in Vienna Sept. 17-21. The report can be found on the organization’s website here.

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