Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Tamil Nadu (India)

For the first time since the Tsunami hit Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 2011 and created panic in the world about nuclear power, the prospect ot nuclear power generation have shown an upward trend.

World Nuclear Association, the international organisation representing the nuclear industry, has attributed the improved prospects of atomic power on favourable energy policies in developed countries like France and the US. Both the countries have delayed the reduction of nuclear element in their energy matrix. The growth has also been pushed by the nuclear power expansion programme of China and India; and also of new entrants like Turkey, Bangladesh and Egypt.

These revised projections were put forth in the 18th edition of the biennial ‘Nuclear Fuel Report: Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2019-2040’ released on September 5. The Upper and Reference Scenarios show global nuclear power capacities growing over the period up to 2040 at a faster since 1990, “increasing mainly due to extensive reactor building programmes in China, India and other countries in Asia”. For the Lower Scenario, nuclear capacity essentially maintains its current level over the forecast period at 402 GWe.

Commenting on the publication of The Nuclear Fuel Report, Director General Agneta Rising said, “Achieving the Harmony goal of supplying 25% of the world’s electricity before 2050 will require a rapid ramp-up of new nuclear build, higher than projected in the Upper Scenario, which in turn would lead to the need of greater amounts of uranium, enrichment, fuel fabrication, transport and used fuel services. Nuclear fuel cycle participants should be prepared to meet a potential large increase in demand to meet the Harmony goal.” The global nuclear industry’s Harmony goal aims to achieve a 25% share of nuclear power in world electricity supply before 2050, to support the world in keeping global temperature increases well below 2 °C.

Presently 449 nuclear power units are operational across the world and are generating 10 per cent of its total power. In 2018, the global nuclear power generation was 2,563 Terra Watt hour. According to Rising: “This avoided the emission of 2.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide compared to the equivalent amount of coal power generation.”

Countries like the US, France and Germany were forced to announce scaling down of their nuclear power generation capacity due to the staunch public opinion in the aftermath of the Fukushima accident. However, since then France has altered its energy policy to delay the planned reduction of nuclear power in the share of its electricity mix and allowing operating lifetime extensions of existing reactors beyond 40 years. In the USA, state legislatures are starting to pass measures that support the continued operation of reactors, recognizing the valuable role of nuclear in providing low-carbon electricity. At the same time, “the process of granting a second operating license extension for US nuclear reactors has begun, allowing reactors to operate for 80 years,” read the report.

On the other hand, the Indian Government has given a push to the nuclear power sector by announcing construction of 10 indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) to be set up in fleet mode. “India has already embarked on an ambitious nuclear energy project and it is likely to fructify in the decades to come. There is no looking back unless a disaster occurs. As India has planned for a judicious mix of its energy basket comprising fossil fuel, renewable, nuclear, thermal etc. and atomic energy constitute only a fraction of the total, India is not likely to face any major problem in its nuclear energy drive,” said Dr. Sitakanta Mishra, Assistant Professor in the School of Liberal Studies at Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gandhinagar.