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Drivers for the Nuclear Energy Renaissance

There are several key factors that are contributing to a renewed emphasis on nuclear energy:

Increasing Energy Demand

Relative to 1980, global population growth in combination with industrial development will lead to a near doubling of electricity consumption by 2030 (Source: World Energy Outlook, OECD/IEA, 2008). In addition to this growth, there will be a need to renew the current generating facilities in the Canada, USA and the EU over the same period. An increasing shortage of fresh water calls for energy-intensive desalination plants, and in the longer-term, if hydrogen production for transport purposes becomes feasible, it will likely require large amounts of electricity and/or high temperature heat.

World Energy Consumption (1980 - 2030)


Climate Change

Increased awareness of the dangers and effects of global warming and climate change has led decision makers, media and the public to realize that the use of fossil fuels must be reduced and replaced by low-emission sources of energy, such as nuclear power, the only readily available large-scale alternative to fossil fuels for production of continuous, reliable supply of electricity.


Economics

Increasing fossil fuel prices have greatly improved the economics of nuclear power for electricity now. Several studies show that nuclear energy is the most cost-effective of the available base-load technologies. In addition, as carbon emission reductions are encouraged through various forms of government incentives and emission trading schemes, the economic benefits of nuclear power will increase further.


Insurance Against Future Price Exposure

A longer-term advantage of uranium over fossil fuels is the low impact that increased fuel prices will have on the final electricity production costs, since a large proportion of those costs is in the capital cost of the plant. This insensitivity to fuel price fluctuations offers a way to stabilize power prices in deregulated markets.


Security of Supply

A re-emerging topic on many political agendas is security of supply, as countries realize how vulnerable they are to interrupted deliveries of oil and gas. The abundance of naturally occurring uranium and the large energy yield from each tonne of it makes nuclear power attractive from an energy security standpoint.

As the nuclear industry is moving away from small national programmes towards global cooperative schemes, serial production of new plants will drive construction costs down and further increase the competitiveness of nuclear energy.

Source: World Nuclear Association