The impetus for significantly increased world nuclear generating capacity arises from aggressive plans in Asia (excluding Japan) and the Middle East.
China currently has 15 operating reactors which contribute less than 2% of the country’s electricity production, and another 26 reactors under construction. China’s national energy policy calls for nuclear power production to double by 2020 to between 60-70 GWe and then triple to at least 200 GWe by 2030. Some adjustment in the near term plan is expected after post-Fukushima design reviews, but rapid growth is assured as China strives for a cleaner energy sector.
In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates has begun construction on four nuclear power plants for commissioning from 2017 and has announced plans for up to another 10 plants once the first group is completed. Saudi Arabia is proceeding with an evaluation of their plan to build at least 16 nuclear plants to replace its inefficient use of oil for domestic power generation.
Elsewhere, reactor new builds are continuing in Russia (33 in operation and 10 under construction), South Korea (23 in operation and three under construction), and India (20 in operation and seven under construction). If these trends continue then, by 2030, more than half of world nuclear electricity production will be outside Western Europe and North America, which currently account for 63% of world capacity.
In November 2011 the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its latest “World Energy Outlook – 2011” which was its first opportunity to revise its nuclear power forecasts since the Fukushima incident. The IEA lowered slightly its forecast of nuclear production to 70% growth by 2035, driven by China, India, and Korea. The striking statistic is that according to the IEA, 90% of world projected energy demand growth arises from non-OECD economies, of which China alone will account for more than 30%. This has significant implications for all energy sources and it is difficult to envisage an energy future which does not involve a substantial increase in nuclear generated electricity once climate change policies become internationally entrenched.