BRICS countries lead globally in nuclear energy commitment

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In a move that has significant ramifications for the global energy market, the recent BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Johannesburg, South Africa, announced that the grouping had invited six new members — Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt Ethiopia and Argentina – to join the group. These six nations are scheduled to become BRICS members from January 1, 2024.  

The addition of these new members has certainly much improved the BRICS group’s capacity for energy production worldwide. With the inclusion of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran, the enlarged group has added three of the world’s largest oil exporters and would constitute 42 per cent of the global oil supply.  Along with Russia, which ranks third in global oil output, BRICS now covers four of the world’s top 10 energy exporters. 

The addition of Argentina, which has the world’s largest reserves of lithium, would make BRICS among three of the five largest lithium producers in the world, alongside China and Brazil. Lithium is used in solar panels and for battery storage systems such as in the electricity sector.

Moreover, BRICS has also distinguished itself in its commitment to developing renewable energy sources.  In the area of low-carbon clean energy production, recent data shows that BRICS is also leading the way in civilian nuclear power commitment, which will be bolstered by the addition of the six new members.  

According to data from the World Nuclear Association (WNA) on countries most committed to nuclear energy, the BRICS countries, including the upcoming members, feature among five of the top eight spots – China, India, Russia, Egypt and the UAE. Of note here is the fact that three of the existing BRICS members – China, India and Russia – are among the top eight. 

Three other nations – Turkey, South Korea and the UK – all of which have nuclear plants currently under construction, feature among the top eight countries in terms of commitment to atomic energy.  

China, however, tops the list with 24 new nuclear reactors planned or being constructed, one of which is to be connected to the grid this year. 

India comes second with its plans to connect eight new nuclear power plants by 2027, while Russia and Egypt have three each in development. 

Three future BRICS members — the UAE, Egypt, and Argentina — are currently constructing new nuclear reactors. 

According to the WNA, atomic energy capacity worldwide is increasing steadily, with about 60 reactors under construction. 

“Most reactors on order or planned are in the Asian region, though there are major plans for new units in Russia,” the WNA said in a report titled Nuclear Power in the World Today 

“Today there are about 440 nuclear power reactors operating in 32 countries, with a combined capacity of about 390 GWe (gigawatt electricity). In 2021, these provided 2,653 TWh (terawatt hours), about 10 percent of the world’s electricity,” the report said.  

Around 60 power reactors are currently being constructed in 15 countries, notably China, India and Russia.  

About 100 power reactors with a total gross capacity of about 100,000 MW are on order or planned, and over 300 more are proposed. Most reactors currently planned are in Asia, with fast-growing economies and rapidly rising electricity demand, the report added.