@ CLIMATE CHANGE AND NUCLEAR POWER

@ CLIMATE CHANGE AND NUCLEAR POWER
CLIMATE CHANGE
AND
NUCLEAR POWER
2011
@
Cover2
CLIMATE CHANGE
AND NUCLEAR POWER 2011
INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY
2011
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Foreword
Climate change is one of the most important
issues facing the world today. Nuclear power
can make an important contribution to
reducing greenhouse gases while delivering
energy in the increasingly large quantities
needed for global economic development.
Nuclear power plants produce virtually no
greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants
during their operation and only very low
emissions over their full life cycle.
The advantages of nuclear power in terms of
climate change are an important reason why
many countries intend to introduce nuclear
power in the coming decades, or to expand
existing programmes. All countries have the
right to use nuclear technology for peaceful
purposes, as well as the responsibility to do
so safely and securely.
The International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) provides assistance and information
to countries that wish to introduce nuclear
power. It also provides information for
broader audiences engaged in energy,
environmental and economic policy-making.
This report, which revises and updates a
2009 edition, summarizes the potential
role of nuclear power in mitigating global
climate change and its contribution to other
development and environment challenges.
It also examines issues such as cost, safety,
waste management and non-proliferation.
I hope it will make a useful contribution to
the deliberations of international policymakers in the United Nations Climate
Change Conference and other fora.
Yukiya Amano
Director General
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Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Executive summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Need for nuclear power
The climate change challenge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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The global energy challenge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Nuclear power is a low carbon technology… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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… and has been contributing to avoiding GHG emissions for decades . . . . . .
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IPCC estimates that nuclear power has the largest and lowest cost GHG
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reduction potential in power generation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Nuclear power contributes to energy supply security . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Nuclear energy has applications beyond the power sector . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Nuclear power has non-climatic environmental benefits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Supplying nuclear power
Nuclear power is economically competitive . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Nuclear investment costs are increasing, but … . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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… financing nuclear power investments is feasible . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Construction capacity will expand as needed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Sufficient uranium is available to fuel increasing nuclear power generation . . . .
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Addressing concerns
Learning and applying the lessons from the Fukushima-Daiichi accident . . . . . .
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Putting radiation risks in context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Making progress on waste management and disposal solutions . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Prospects for nuclear power
The Fukushima-Daiichi accident is projected to slow growth in nuclear power
but not reverse it . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Fast reactors in a closed fuel cycle can use uranium more efficiently . . . . . . . .
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Nuclear fusion has long term promise. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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Introduction
The twin challenges of global climate change
and global energy poverty share at least one
significant feature — each will require very
carefully designed policies if it is to be solved
without making the other worse. Significant
decarbonization of the global energy system is essential if the goal of meeting global
energy aspirations is to be reconciled with
that of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions in order to limit global temperatures. It is in this context that this report
highlights nuclear power’s potential to help
mitigate global climate change while meeting
growing global energy needs.
This report is an update of an earlier (2009)
publication. In the period since that report’s
release, the accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which was caused
by the earthquake and tsunami that struck
Japan on 11 March 2011, has emphasized
the importance of ensuring that the highest
and most robust levels of nuclear safety are
in place. The IAEA Conference on Nuclear
Safety held in Vienna in June 2011 encouraged States with operating nuclear power
plants to conduct comprehensive risk and
safety assessments (‘stress tests’) on those
plants. Subsequently the IAEA’s General
Conference adopted a 12-point Action Plan
on Nuclear Safety. The accident also set
off a new debate on nuclear power. While
that debate has offered an opportunity to
strengthen the nuclear safety regime, it is
important to bear in mind and recognize
that the arguments for nuclear power as a
potential mitigator of GHG emissions have
not gone away. Nor has the need for such
mitigators.
The countries attending the 2011 G8 Summit
in Deauville, France, confirmed their commitment to long term efforts to limit “the
increase in global temperatures [to] below
2°C above pre-industrial levels, consistent
with science” and their support for “reducing emissions of greenhouse gases in aggregate by 80% or more by 2050, compared
to 1990” in developed countries (Group of
Eight 2011 [1]).
In calling for such dramatic reductions
in GHG emissions, the G8 countries are
reflecting the major concerns which have
been expressed in recent decades about global climate change resulting from increasing
anthropogenic emissions of GHGs. A principal source of GHGs, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2), is the fossil fuels burned by the
energy sector. Energy demand is expected
to increase dramatically in the 21st century,
especially in developing countries, where
population growth is fastest and where, even
today, some 1.4 billion people have no access
to modern energy services. Without significant efforts to limit future GHG emissions,
especially from the energy supply sector, the
expected global increase in energy production and use could well trigger “dangerous
anthropogenic interference with the climate
system”, to quote Article 2 of the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UNFCCC [2]).
Nuclear power has the potential to
continue to play a significant role in
the effort to limit future GHG emissions while meeting global energy
needs. Nuclear power plants produce
virtually no GHG emissions during
their operation and only very small
amounts on a life cycle basis.
This report summarizes nuclear power’s
potential role in mitigating global climate
change. It also highlights nuclear power’s
contribution to addressing development and
environmental challenges, as well as its current status, including the issues of cost, safety,
waste management and non-proliferation.
Nuclear power’s current — and potential
future — contribution to meeting the twin
challenges of climate change and energy
poverty make it especially important to deal
effectively with any concerns about nuclear
power.
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Executive summary
Global greenhouse gas emissions will
need to peak within the next decade
or so and then fall substantially
below the 2000 emission levels by
the middle of the century in order
to keep the increase in global mean
temperature below 2°C relative
to pre-industrial levels. The body of
evidence put forward by climate science has
grown over the past few years indicating
that the climate system of the Earth is
warming due to increasing concentrations
of GHGs, especially CO2 , resulting from
human activities, mainly the burning of fossil
fuels. A rapid reversal of the increasing
emissions trends and reductions of 50–85%
is required by 2050 to avoid adverse
climate change impacts on ecological and
socioeconomic systems.
Energy is indispensable for development. Enormous increases in energy supply are required to lift 2.4 billion people
out of energy poverty. Without a shift in
the global approach to energy, however,
GHG emissions will increase even further.
Meeting the acute growth in energy demand
would require primary energy of the order
of 17 gigatonnes of oil equivalent (Gtoe) in
2030 and around 22 Gtoe in 2050, compared to 12.27 Gtoe in 2008. In the absence
of sweeping policy interventions, this would
lead to an increase in energy related CO2
emissions of 40% in 2030 and of 100% in
2050 relative to 2008. The twin challenges
over the next 10–20 years will be to keep
promoting economic development by providing reliable, safe and affordable energy
services while significantly reducing GHG
emissions.
Nuclear power is among the energy
sources and technologies available
today that could help meet the
climate–energy
challenge.
GHG
emissions from nuclear power plants are
negligible and nuclear power, together with
hydropower and wind based electricity,
is among the lowest CO2 emitters when
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emissions throughout the entire life cycle
are considered.
In the electricity sector, nuclear power
has been assessed as having the largest
potential (1.88 Gt CO2-equivalent
(CO2-eq.)) to mitigate GHG emissions
at the lowest cost: 50% of the potential
at negative costs due to co-benefits from
reduced air pollution, the other 50% at
less than $20/t CO2-eq. Nuclear energy
could account for about 15% of the total
GHG reduction in electricity generation
in 2050.
Nuclear energy can contribute
to resolving other energy supply
concerns and has non-climatic
environmental benefits. Nuclear power
can help alleviate concerns about energy
security and increased volatility in fossil
fuel prices. Ample uranium resources are
available from diverse sources, and the cost
of uranium is a small fraction of the total
cost of nuclear electricity. Nuclear power
can also help reduce local and regional air
pollution.
The economics of nuclear power
are competitive and will be further
enhanced by the increasing CO2 costs
of fossil based electricity generation.
The estimated ranges of levelized electricity
costs from natural gas, coal and nuclear
sources largely overlap between 5 and
10 US cents/kW•h. Including the costs of
CO2 capture and geological disposal and
increasing charges for CO2 emissions would
further improve the competitiveness of
nuclear power.
Radiation risks from normal plant
operation and waste management
are small. Radiation risks from normal
plant operation remain at a negligible level
relative to natural and medical sources of
public radiation exposure. The scientific
foundations for the safe geological disposal
of radioactive waste are well established.
Projections of future nuclear generating capacity point to continued growth of nuclear power in the
longer term. It is expected that the
Fukushima-Daiichi accident may slow
growth but not reverse the steady increase
in the number of nuclear power reactors.
The principal reasons for increased interest
in nuclear power in recent years have not
changed.
The accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi
Nuclear Power Plant emphasized the
importance of ensuring that the highest and most robust levels of nuclear
safety are in place. The IAEA Conference on Nuclear Safety held in Vienna in
June 2011 encouraged States with operating
nuclear power plants to conduct comprehensive risk and safety assessments (‘stress
tests’) of those plants. Subsequently, in
September 2011, the IAEA’s General Conference adopted an Action Plan on Nuclear
Safety. The Action Plan defines 12 actions
designed to strengthen nuclear safety
worldwide. Concerted efforts by international organizations, governments, and
operators of nuclear facilities will be needed
to fully and promptly implement the Action
Plan.
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The climate change challenge
According to the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
the biophysical changes resulting from a global warming of more than 3°C will trigger
increasingly negative impacts in all climate
sensitive sectors in all regions of the world
(IPCC [3]). In mid-latitude and semi-arid
low latitude regions, decreasing water availability and increasing drought will expose
hundreds of millions of people to increased
water stress. In agriculture, cereal productivity is expected to decrease in low latitude
regions and be only partly compensated for
by increased productivity in mid-latitude and
high latitude regions. Natural ecosystems
will also be affected negatively: up to 30% of
species will be at a growing risk of extinction in terrestrial areas, and increased coral
bleaching in the oceans is forecast. In coastal
areas, damage from floods and storms will
increase. Human health will also be affected,
especially in less developed countries, by the
increasing burden from malnutrition and
from diarrhoeal, cardiorespiratory and infectious diseases. Increased morbidity and mortality are foreseen from heat waves, floods
and droughts.
Figure 1 presents the pathways towards
stabilizing climate change in various ranges
of global warming as established by the
IPCC (IPCC [4]). The underlying calculations
imply that in order to prevent a global
mean temperature increase of more than
2.0–2.4°C above the pre-industrial level,
GHG concentrations should not exceed the
range of 445–490 ppm CO2-eq. This means
that global CO2 emissions would need to
peak by 2015 and return to the 2000 level
by 2030 at the latest, and should be reduced
by 50–85% relative to 2000 by 2050. The
Synthesis Report of the 2009 Copenhagen
Conference on Climate Change presents
three emission pathways for energy related
FIG. 1. Carbon dioxide emissions and equilibrium temperature increases for a range of stabilization
levels (based on the IPCC [4] and Richardson et al. [5]).
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CO2 emissions towards stabilizing GHG
concentrations at three levels (400, 450 and
550 ppm CO2-eq., shown as coloured lines
in Fig. 1) that imply three confidence levels
for keeping the global mean temperature
increase below 2°C: at 15%, 50% and 75%
probability, respectively (Richardson et al.
[5]). The lowest trajectory entails negative
global emissions after 2070 (implementation
of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and
biomass).
The world thus faces an enormous
mitigation challenge over the next decades.
Both the report of IPCC Working Group
III (WGIII) and the Copenhagen Synthesis
Report maintain that many mitigation
technologies and practices that could
reduce GHG emissions are already
commercially available. According to the
IPCC, technical solutions and processes
could reduce the energy intensity in
all economic sectors and provide the
same output or service with lower
emissions (IPCC [6]). Fuel switching and
modal shifts (from road to rail, from
private to public) in the transport sector; heat
recovery, material recycling and substitution
in industry; improved land management
and agronomic techniques and energy crop
cultivation in agriculture; and fuel switching,
efficiency improvements and the increased
use of renewables and nuclear power and
of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the
energy sector could result in significant GHG
reductions.
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The global energy challenge
All recent socioeconomic development
studies project major increases in energy
demand, driven largely by demographic and
economic growth in today’s developing
countries. Worldwide, 2.4 billion people
rely on traditional biomass as their primary
source of energy (UNDP [7]), and 1.4 billion
people do not have access to electricity (IEA
[8]) — conditions which severely hamper
socioeconomic development.
Of the world’s 6.9 billion people, about 83%
live in non-OECD countries and consume
only 56% of global primary energy (IEA
[9]). Alleviating this energy inequity will be
a huge task. A growing global population
will compound the problem. The medium
variant of the latest population projections
of the United Nations estimates an additional
1.5 billion people by 2030, and another 1 billion
by 2050, bringing the world’s population to
about 9.3 billion by the middle of this century
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(UNDESA [10]). Regarding economic growth,
the World Bank projects an average annual
growth rate for the world economy of 3.1%
up to 2015 and 2.5% between 2015 and 2030
(World Bank [11]). Developing countries will
grow the fastest, while OECD countries will
grow at the slowest rate. Based on these
two main drivers of energy demand, the IEA
projects that, without substantial changes to
current energy policies, world total primary
energy demand will grow from 12.27 Gtoe
in 2008 to about 17 Gtoe by 2030 [9] and
22 Gtoe by 2050 (IEA [12]).
The climate change implications are severe.
If energy related CO2 emissions increase
by about 40% in 2030 and roughly double
by 2050 relative to 2008, the Earth would
be on track towards atmospheric GHG
concentrations of the order of 800 ppm
CO2-eq. and an equilibrium warming of over
5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Nuclear power is a low carbon technology…
Many studies in recent years have estimated
the life cycle GHG emissions from different
power generation technologies.
Figure 2 shows that, on a life cycle basis,
nuclear
power,
together
with
hydropower and wind based electricity,
is one of the lowest emitters of
GHGs in terms of g CO2-eq. per unit
of electricity generated. Coal based
generation, even if equipped with CCS
technology, is estimated to emit about one
order of magnitude more GHGs per unit of
electricity (note the different vertical scales
in Figs 2(a) and 2(b)).
GHG emissions from nuclear energy
technologies will be even lower in the
future due to four important trends: (i)
a shift from electricity intensive gaseous
diffusion uranium enrichment technology to
centrifuge or laser technologies that require
much less electricity; (ii) the increased
share of electricity (also for enrichment)
that is based on low or non-carbon fuels;
(iii) extended nuclear power plant lifetimes
(which mean reduced emissions per kW•h
associated with construction); and (iv)
increased burnup (which means reduced
emissions per kW•h associated with uranium
mining and manufacturing fuel).
FIG. 2. Life cycle GHG emissions for selected power generation technologies: (a) fossil technologies;
(b) non-fossil technologies (Weisser [13]).
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…and has been contributing to avoiding
GHG emissions for decades
Over the past 50 years, the use of
nuclear power has resulted in the
avoidance of significant amounts of
GHG emissions around the world.
Globally, the amount of avoided emissions is
comparable with that from hydropower.
Figure 3 shows the historical trends of CO2
emissions from the global power sector
and the amounts of emissions avoided
by using hydropower, nuclear energy and
other renewable electricity generation
technologies. The height of the red columns
indicates the actual CO2 emissions in any
given year. The total height of each column
shows what the emissions would have been
without the three low carbon electricity
sources.The blue, yellow and green segments
of the bars show the emissions avoided by
hydropower, nuclear power and renewables
other than hydropower.
Figure 4 confirms these global trends by
depicting the CO2 intensity and the shares
FIG. 3. Global CO2 emissions from the electricity sector and emissions avoided by using three low
carbon generation technologies (IAEA calculations based on Ref. (IEA [12])).
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of non-fossil sources in power generation
for selected countries. The top scale shows,
from left to right, the relative contributions
of nuclear, hydro and other renewable (wind,
solar, geothermal, etc.) technologies to the
total amount of electricity generated in 2006.
The bottom scale measures, from right to
left, the average amount of CO2 emitted from
generating 1 kW•h of electricity in the same
year. The chart demonstrates that countries
with the lowest CO2 intensity (less than
100 g CO2/kW•h, below 20% of the world
average) generate around 80% or more of
their electricity from hydro (Brazil), nuclear
(France) or a combination of these two
(Switzerland and Sweden).
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FIG. 4. Carbon dioxide intensity and the shares of non-fossil sources in the electricity sector of
selected countries (IAEA calculations based on Ref. (IEA [12])).
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The IPCC estimates that nuclear power has
the largest and lowest cost GHG reduction
potential in power generation
The IPCC has estimated the mitigation
potential of various electricity generating
technologies (IPCC [6]). Figure 5 shows the
results for low carbon power generation
technologies with a mitigation potential of
more than 0.5 Gt CO2-eq. The figure shows
the potential GHG emissions that can be
avoided by 2030 by adopting the selected
generation technologies. The width of each
rectangle is the mitigation potential of that
technology for the carbon cost range shown
on the vertical axis. Each rectangle’s width
is shown in the small box directly above it.
Thus, nuclear power (yellow rectangles) has
a mitigation potential of 0.94 Gt CO2-eq at
negative carbon costs1 plus another 0.94 Gt
CO2-eq for carbon costs up to $20/t CO2.
The total for nuclear power is 1.8 Gt CO2-eq,
as shown on the horizontal axis.
The figure indicates that nuclear power
represents the largest mitigation potential at
the lowest average cost in the energy supply
sector, essentially electricity generation.
Hydropower offers the second cheapest
mitigation potential but its size is the
smallest of the five options. The mitigation
potential offered by wind energy is spread
across three cost ranges, yet more than
one third of it can be utilized at negative
cost. Bioenergy also has a significant total
mitigation potential but less than half
of it could be harvested at costs below
$20/t CO2-eq by 2030.
FIG. 5. Mitigation potential in 2030 of selected electricity generation technologies in different cost
ranges (based on data in Table 4.19, p. 300, of Ref. (IPCC [6])).
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In the IPCC report, mitigation options with net negative costs are defined as those options whose benefits such
as reduced energy costs and reduced emissions of local/regional pollutants equal or exceed their costs to society,
excluding the benefits of avoided climate change.
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Nuclear power contributes to
energy supply security
The best way to strengthen a country’s
energy supply security is diversification:
increasing the number and resilience of
energy supply options. For many countries,
introducing or expanding nuclear power would
increase the diversity of energy and electricity
supplies. In addition, the currently known
and reported resources and reserves of the
basic fuel, uranium, are found in a diversity of
countries in five continents (Fig. 6). Moreover,
compared to fossil fuels, the small volume of
nuclear fuel required to run a reactor makes
it easier to establish strategic inventories. In
practice, the trend over the years has been
away from strategic stocks towards supply
security based on diverse and well functioning
markets for uranium and fuel supply services.
However, the option of relatively low cost
strategic inventories remains available for
countries that find it important.
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FIG. 6. Distribution of reported uranium resources in 2009 (OECD/NEA and IAEA [14]).
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Nuclear energy has applications beyond
the power sector
Nuclear energy is used in several non-electric
applications, including seawater desalination
and district heating. It has the potential for
expanded use in desalination, in extracting
non-conventional oil, in co-generation with
coal and in hydrogen production for transport.
The required temperature ranges and the
corresponding reactor types are presented in
Fig. 7.
Freshwater availability is a severe problem in
many countries: 2.3 billion people currently
live in water stressed regions, including
1.7 billion living in water scarce areas. Adding
to other impacts of climate change, more
frequent or longer lasting droughts will
require alternative ways to provide potable
water in many semi-arid and drought prone
areas. Currently, around 40 million m3/day of
water are distilled in some 15 000 plants, most
of which are located in the Middle East and
North Africa.
Nuclear desalination is already in
operation in several countries, and
can make use of excess power beyond
that required for baseload operation.
Most desalination plants today use fossil
fuels as their primary energy source, thus
contributing to GHG emissions because
the process is very energy intensive. Two
nuclear desalination plants operate in
India: a 6300 m3/day nuclear desalination
demonstration plant coupled with a power
FIG. 7. Possible uses of nuclear energy beyond power generation (IAEA [16]). (Note: HTGR — high
temperature gas cooled reactor; AGR — advanced gas cooled reactor; LMFR — liquid metal
cooled fast reactor; L/HWR — light/heavy water reactor.)
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station, and a low temperature desalination
plant (the first of a kind) coupled with a
research reactor. China started operation in
June 2010 of its first seawater desalination
system associated with a nuclear power
plant. It can provide 10 080 m3/day of fresh
water. In Japan, several desalination facilities
linked to power reactors each provide 1000–
3000 m3/day of potable water for the reactors’
own cooling systems. Looking to the future,
20% of the electrical capacity of a 600 MW(e)
nuclear reactor operating in co-generation
mode could produce 500 000 m3/day of
potable water (IAEA [15]).
Nuclear energy can help extract high
viscosity oil such as that in the oil sands
of Canada’s Athabasca region. Currently,
substantial CO2 is released due to energy use
and hydrogen production for oil extraction
and refining from these oil sands, since the
present major source of the energy used
is natural gas. Using nuclear reactors to
supply energy and produce hydrogen would
significantly reduce the carbon emissions from
recovering oil from the oil sands.
Nuclear energy is not simply an alternative
to coal as an energy source, but can also
help reduce carbon emissions from
coal burning. Given the world’s huge
coal resources, the gasification of coal for
integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC)
combustion might be an important GHG
emission mitigation technology. Nuclear heat
from HTGRs can be used for the gasification
of coal along with the generation of electricity,
which would reduce carbon emissions
significantly (Yoshimoto et al. [17]).
Nuclear energy can potentially also
be used to generate hydrogen for
direct use by energy consumers. To the
extent hydrogen powered fuel cells can be
used to power transport in place of internal
combustion engines, they could help reduce
growth in both fossil fuel consumption and
associated GHG emissions.
There are different processes for producing
hydrogen. Thermochemical water splitting
(heat plus water yields hydrogen and oxygen) is highly efficient and more economical
than electrolysis of water with electricity
(Forsberg and Peddicord [18]). Thermochemical water splitting requires the high
temperatures (750–1000°C) that some
nuclear reactors can provide. As with nuclear
desalination, nuclear hydrogen production
would allow the use of excess nuclear power
beyond that required to serve baseload
demand.
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Nuclear power has non-climatic
environmental benefits
In addition to helping to mitigate climate
change, the use of nuclear power plants
can also reduce emissions of air pollutants
other that GHG with negative health and
environmental impacts at local and regional
scales.
Nuclear power plants emit virtually no
air pollutants during their operation. In
contrast, fossil based power plants are major
contributors to air pollution. The World
Health Organization (WHO) has estimated
that air pollution causes approximately
two million premature deaths worldwide
each year (WHO [19]). Air pollution also
contributes to health disorders from
respiratory infections, heart disease and
lung cancer. In many cities in developing
countries, the level of particulate matter
in the air exceeds 70 micrograms per
cubic metre (μg/m3), and by reducing it to
20 μg/m3 (the air pollution concentration
level recommended by WHO), air quality
related deaths could be cut by around 15%.
An analysis of a possible 45% nuclear power
expansion in Europe by 2030 concludes
that the reduced air pollution would lead to
a decrease of 3% in the number of people
with bronchitis by 2030, 2.5% in the number
of ‘restricted activity days’ and 1.9% in the
number of premature deaths. The associated
welfare gain was estimated at €32–559
billion, with a median value of €165 billion
(Bollen and Eerens [20]).
On a regional scale, air pollutants travelling
long distances cause acid rain. Acid rain
FIG. 8. Estimated average EU external costs for selected electricity generation technologies between
2005 and 2010 (Markandya et al. [22]).
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disturbs ecosystems, leading to adverse
impacts on freshwater fisheries and on
natural vegetation and crops. Acidification
of forest ecosystems can lead to forest
degradation and dieback. Acid rain also
damages certain building materials and
historic and cultural monuments. It is caused
by sulphur and nitrogen compounds, and
fossil fuel power plants, particularly coal
power plants, are the primary emitters
of the precursors of those compounds.
Sulphate and nitrate, transported across
national borders, also contribute to the
occurrence of haze, strongly limiting visibility
and reducing sunlight, and possibly changing
the atmospheric and surface temperatures
as well as the hydrological cycle (Centre
for Clouds, Chemistry and Climate [21]).
Technology solutions exist to reduce these
emissions, but at a cost.
Environmental and health damages which
occur due to electricity production but are
not reflected in the price of electricity are
called external costs. The latest systematic
analysis of such external costs monetized
damages due to: (1) climate change; (2) the
impacts on human health, biodiversity loss,
crops, and materials of familiar air pollutants
such as ammonia (NH3), nitrogen oxides
(NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and particulates;
(3) health impacts of heavy metals; and (4)
health impacts of radionuclides (Markandya
et al. [22]). Figure 8 shows the estimated
average monetized external costs in the
EU over the period 2005–2010 for a range
of electricity generation technologies. The
estimated external costs cover the entire life
cycle, i.e. construction and decommissioning
as well as the fuel cycle.
Fossil based electricity generation has
considerably higher external costs than
nuclear power and renewable technologies.
Through
safety
and
environmental
regulations the nuclear industry has already
internalized the bulk of its potential external
costs.
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Nuclear power is economically competitive
The estimated range of electricity generating
costs for new nuclear power plants overlaps
with the ranges estimated for other power
generating sources. The investment choice,
whether by a government or private
investor, will depend on many factors, but
the overlap in cost estimates means that in
some investment situations nuclear power
will be the least-cost option and in other
investment situations it will not be. The
complexity and capital cost of nuclear power
still make it a less frequent investment choice
than gas and coal fired power stations. But in
recent years nuclear power has been chosen
more often. Currently, 65 new reactors are
under construction, twice the number in
2001. Through 2010, the number of new
reactors on which construction started in
each year grew for seven years in a row. This
section addresses distinctive features about
nuclear power’s costs relative to the costs
of alternatives.
Nuclear power plants have a ‘front
loaded’ cost structure, a feature they
share with most renewables. That is,
they are relatively expensive to build
but relatively inexpensive to operate.
Moreover, the low share of uranium costs in
total generating costs means any volatility in
uranium costs leads to much less volatility
in generating costs. Thus, nuclear power
plants currently in operation are a generally
competitive and profitable source of
electricity.
For new construction, however, the
economic competitiveness of nuclear
power is more variable. First, it depends on
the alternatives available. Some countries
are rich in alternative energy resources,
others less so. Second, it depends on the
overall electricity demand in a country and
how fast it is growing. Third, it depends
on the market structure and investment
environment. Other things being equal,
nuclear power’s front loaded cost structure
is less attractive to a private investor in a
liberalized market that values rapid returns
20
than to a government that can consider
the longer term, particularly in a regulated
market that ensures attractive returns.
Private investments in liberalized markets
will also depend on the extent to which
external costs and benefits, such as pollution,
GHG emissions, waste and energy supply
security, have been internalized. In contrast,
government investors can incorporate such
externalities directly into their decisions.
Also important are regulatory risks and
political support for nuclear power. All these
factors vary across countries.
In the Republic of Korea, for example,
the relatively high cost of alternative
electricity sources benefits nuclear power’s
competitiveness. In India and China, rapidly
growing energy needs encourage the
development of all energy options. In Europe,
high electricity prices, high natural gas
prices and GHG emission limits under the
European Union Greenhouse Gas Emission
Trading Scheme (EU ETS) have improved the
business case for new nuclear power plants.
In the USA, the 2005 US Energy Policy Act
strengthened the business case for nuclear
power through Government coverage of
the costs of potential licensing delays, loan
guarantees and a production tax credit for
up to 6000 MW(e) of advanced nuclear
power capacity.
The latest study by the OECD-IEA and
NEA on the projected costs of electricity
generation includes almost 200 power plants
in 17 OECD and 4 non-OECD countries
(OECD/IEA and NEA [23]). It presents
levelized costs of electricity (LCOE)
calculated using a common method and
data supplied by countries, companies and
industrial organizations. Figure 9 shows the
results for six major electricity technologies
using two discount rates: 5% and 10%. The
former is more relevant for government
investments. The latter is more typical of
investments by the private sector. Higher
discount rates make technologies with large
up-front investment costs relatively more
expensive. The basic message of the figure
is that the LCOE of the three main
current generation technologies
(coal, gas and nuclear) largely overlap
within the $50–100 per MW•h range.
Current expectations are the incremental
costs of revised safety measures after the
Fukushima-Daiichi accident will not increase
the LCOE of nuclear power significantly.
The choice among these technologies in
any particular investment decision will
be determined by which of them is more
favourable given the prevailing market,
geographical and natural resource conditions,
technological capabilities and socio-political
preferences.
FIG. 9. Ranges of levelized costs of electricity associated with new construction with and without a
$30/t CO2 tax for 5% (top panel) and 10% discount rates (bottom panel) (based OECD/IEA
and NEA data [23]).
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Nuclear investment costs are increasing, but …
Nuclear power plants are more capital intensive than are other large scale power generation plants.The total investment cost typically
represents some 60% of the total generation
cost of nuclear electricity.
Recent announcements by utilities and
power companies show that estimated
overnight costs (OCs) for new nuclear
power projects range between $1400
and $6300/kW, with most well above
$3000/kW. Even within the same country
and for similar technologies, costs can vary
due to site characteristics, plant size, localization rate, and other factors. The wide range
and size of the investments is very challenging especially for countries considering their
first nuclear power plant. For them, a good
understanding of the true total investment
cost of the project is especially important.
OC estimates reported by the OECD/
IEA and NEA vary substantially across
countries due to differences in country
specific financial, technical and regulatory
conditions (OECD/IEA and NEA [23]). The
low estimates were those reported from
Asia, specifically an estimate of $1556/kW
reported by the Republic of Korea, a country
with recent experience in building new
reactors. The study also shows that when
financing costs are low (5%), more capital
intensive, low carbon technologies like
nuclear are more competitive than coal and
gas fired plants (even without carbon dioxide
capture), and that, on a longer term basis,
nuclear energy delivers stable and low cost
electricity.
Figure 10 presents ranges of the overnight
construction costs for six main power
technologies. A significant number of the
reported nuclear projects are in a relatively
narrow range (within one standard deviation
of the mean) compared to renewable power
technologies.
FIG. 10. Ranges for OC estimates for the main electricity generation technologies, 2008–2010 (in
2008 US dollars) (IAEA [24]).
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… financing nuclear power investments
is feasible
The traditional financing methods of
government financing (i.e. using State
budgets) and corporate financing (using
corporate balance sheets) still dominate the
industry but the trend towards governments
relying more on industry and private sector
participation to initiate new innovative
financial structures continues. However,
initial government support is central to the
successful financing of new nuclear power
projects under all financing options. The
availability of finance for new nuclear power
plants will depend on government support
in both mature and emerging countries. By
taking on part of the construction risk by
awarding loan guarantees, governments can
lower the cost of finance. Other salient
measures that can assist the nuclear industry
are the level and certainty of subsidies and
incentives by governments, like uniformly
applied carbon costs and green credits.
The current investment climate has been
impacted by the global financial crisis of
2008 and the Fukushima-Daiichi accident. In
response to the financial crisis, regulations to
avoid similar future crises, such as increased
capital requirements for banks, that are
intended to protect investors may also add
to project financing costs and impact market
liquidity.
A new financing model is also emerging that
combines project finance with a cooperative
approach, including an increased number of
equity partners to share the financing risk
(see Fig. 11). Pure project finance is still not
available for nuclear projects. To explore
FIG. 11. Financing models.
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opportunities in new foreign markets some
corporations are creating new business units
and plan to open credit lines to finance new
nuclear power projects or engage in build–
own–operate (BOO) schemes. Others are
forming teams to provide a full complement
of services, design, engineering, procurement,
construction and operation. Some utilities
are strengthening their balance sheets
through mergers. Financial institutions also
continue to innovate — developing products
like the ‘completion wrapped bond’ designed
to allow project sponsors to share some of
the project completion risk with the banks
and bondholders.
Many countries with nuclear power have
reaffirmed their commitment to expanding
nuclear power while incorporating all the
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lessons to be learned from the accident. In
countries considering the introduction of
nuclear power interest also remains high. Of
the countries without nuclear power that,
before the accident, had strongly indicated
their intentions to proceed with nuclear
power programmes, a few have cancelled or
revised their plans, others have taken a ‘waitand-see’ approach, but most have continued
their efforts to introduce nuclear power
into their energy mixes. The factors that had
contributed to increasing interest in nuclear
power before the Fukushima-Daiichi accident
remain largely the same.
Construction capacity will expand as needed
Given that nuclear power is competitive
and financing is feasible, the specialized
manufacturing capacity to build new
reactors in the near term is expected
to grow in line with the projected
growth of nuclear power described
below. The demand for new reactors
over the last few years has already led to
an expansion in global reactor production
capacity. China, India and the Russian
Federation in particular are in the midst
of large scale nuclear programmes to add
significant amounts of new generating
capacity to their national grids. All three
have reaffirmed their expansion plans
in the wake of the Fukushima-Daiichi
accident, and many other countries
with nuclear power have also reaffirmed
expansion plans.
Concerns have been expressed in a
number of countries about possible
shortages of people with the skills
needed by an expanding nuclear power
industry. Such concerns have prompted
initiatives by governments and industry to
successfully attract students and expand
education and training in nuclear related
fields. If the higher projection for nuclear
power described below is realized, these
successes will have to be replicated
several times over. This will be a significant
but not unprecedented difficulty. The
high projection presented below, for
example, would require bringing on-line
an average of 22 new reactors each year,
compared with the annual average of
16 new reactors during the 1970s.
Moreover, even in the high projection,
nuclear power’s share of global electricity
remains nearly constant through 2050,
meaning that other electricity sources
— and their staffing needs — would
be growing at the same rate as nuclear
power. The challenge faced by nuclear
power is not exceptional.
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Sufficient uranium is available to fuel increasing
nuclear power generation
Every two years the OECD/NEA and
the IAEA publish updated estimates of
global uranium resources. The latest
update, published in 2010, estimates
identified conventional uranium resources,
recoverable at a cost of less than
$130/kg U, at 5.4 million tonnes of uranium
(Mt U). At the estimated 2009 rate of
consumption, those 5.4 Mt U would
be sufficient for more than 80 years.
This compares favourably to reserves of
30–50 years for other commodities (e.g.
copper, zinc, oil and natural gas). For
reference, the spot price for uranium on
27 October 2011 was $135/kg U, down
from a peak of about $190/kg U before
the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.
In addition, there are an estimated
0.9 Mt U of identified conventional
resources recoverable at costs between
$130/kg U and $260/kg U, bringing total
identified resources recoverable at a cost
of less than $260/kg U to 6.3 Mt U.
The
updated
estimate
for
total
undiscovered resources was more than
10.4 Mt U. These included both resources
that are expected to occur either in or
near known deposits at costs less than
$260/kg U, and more speculative resources
that are thought to exist in geologically
favourable, yet unexplored areas.
Unconventional uranium resources and
thorium further expand the resource base.
Unconventional resources include uranium
in sea water and resources from which
uranium is only recoverable as a minor
by-product. Very few countries currently
report unconventional resources. Past estimates of potentially recoverable uranium
26
associated with phosphates, non-ferrous
ores, carbonatite, black schist and lignite
are of the order of 10 Mt U. Worldwide
resources of thorium have been estimated
to be about 6 Mt. Although thorium has
been used as fuel on a demonstration
basis, further work is still needed before it
can be considered on an equal basis with
uranium.
Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, which
still contains some 95% of its original
energy, can further extend the lifetime
of global uranium resources. Annual
discharges of spent fuel from the world’s
reactors total about 10 500 t of heavy
metal per year, approximately one third
of which is reprocessed to extract usable
material (uranium and plutonium) for new
mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. The remaining
spent fuel is considered waste and is
stored pending disposal.
Advanced reactor designs, such as fast
breeder reactors, and associated fuel cycles
could utilize uranium even more efficiently
than do current reactors and fuel cycles
(IAEA [25]) and extend the lifetime of
uranium resources by a factor of 60 to
70. Although there are no fast breeder
reactors using reprocessed plutonium
currently operating commercially, more
than 200 reactor-years of experience
have been accumulated in industry scale
breeder reactors in France and the Russian
Federation. This provides a good basis for
designing and building commercial fast
breeder reactors in the future.
In summary, uranium resources per
se do not constrain an expansion of
nuclear power.
Learning and applying the lessons from the
Fukushima-Daiichi accident
In 2011 discussions of nuclear power plant
safety were dominated by the need to
identify and apply the lessons that could be
learned from the accident at the FukushimaDaiichi Nuclear Power Plant, caused by
the extraordinary natural disasters of the
earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on
11 March 2011.
The IAEA convened a Ministerial Conference
on Nuclear Safety in June 2011 to undertake,
at a high level, a preliminary assessment of
the accident and to identify needed actions
to improve safety, emergency preparedness
and response, and the global nuclear
safety framework. In response to these
preliminary assessments and the IAEA
Ministerial Conference, many Member States
announced that reviews had been or would
be carried out in 2011 as part of national
safety assessments (often called ‘stress tests’),
and commitments were made to complete
any remaining assessments promptly and
implement the necessary corrective action
(IAEA [26]).
Work to bring the reactors at FukushimaDaiichi to ‘cold shutdown’ is still in progress.
However, the accident’s preliminary insights
were for all nuclear power plants to review
and strengthen, as needed: (1) protective
measures against extreme hazards like
tsunamis; (2) power and cooling capabilities
in the event of severe accidents; (3)
preparations to manage severe accidents;
and (4) the design bases of plants, i.e. the
assumptions about a predetermined set of
accidents to be taken into account.
The accident and subsequent safety
reviews have had an impact on worldwide
prospects for nuclear power. The projected
global nuclear power capacity for
2030 is 7–8% lower than was projected
before the accident (IAEA [27]). Thus,
globally, the accident is expected to
slow or delay growth in nuclear
power but not to reverse it.
However, many countries with a nuclear
power programme have reaffirmed their
commitment to expanding nuclear power
while incorporating all the lessons to be
learned from the accident into their national
nuclear programmes.
Although there are lessons yet to be
learned, action plans to apply the accident’s
preliminary lessons have already been
developed at national and international levels.
The Action Plan on Nuclear Safety
(IAEA [26]) adopted by the IAEA’s
General Conference in September
2011 defines 12 main actions:
•
Undertake assessments of the safety vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants in the
light of lessons learned to date from the
accident.
•
Incorporate the Fukushima-Daiichi accident’s lessons into IAEA peer reviews,
apply these more broadly and make the
results more transparent.
•
Review and strengthen emergency preparedness and response arrangements
and capabilities.
•
Regularly review (e.g. through IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service missions) national regulatory bodies, particularly their independence and resources,
and strengthen them as needed.
•
Regularly review (e.g. through IAEA
Operational Safety Review Team missions), and strengthen as needed, the
management systems, safety culture,
human resources management, and scientific and technical capacities in operating organizations.
•
Review and strengthen the IAEA
Safety Standards and improve their
implementation.
•
Improve the effectiveness of the international legal framework and work towards
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a global nuclear liability regime that
addresses the concerns of all States that
might be affected by a nuclear accident.
•
Help countries planning to start a
nuclear power programme to create an
appropriate nuclear infrastructure based
on the IAEA Safety Standards.
•
Strengthen national capacity building
programmes, and incorporate lessons
from the Fukushima accident, to ensure
sufficient human resources for nuclear
power plant safety.
•
Cooperate on monitoring, decontamination and remediation in Japan, especially
for the removal of damaged nuclear fuel
and the management and disposal of
radioactive waste.
•
Improve the transparency and effectiveness of communication and the
28
dissemination of information, including
through a fully transparent comprehensive assessment of the accident.
•
Undertake research and development in
areas highlighted by the accident, such as
extreme natural hazards, management of
severe accidents, station blackout, loss of
heat sink, spent fuel accidents, and postaccident monitoring systems in extreme
environments.
Further lessons may be learned and, as
appropriate, be incorporated into the above
actions by updating the plan. The Action
Plan’s success will depend on its implementation through the full cooperation and participation of Member States and will require the
involvement of many additional stakeholders.
Putting radiation risks in context
The United Nations Scientific Committee on
the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR)
periodically carries out assessments of
exposures of the public and workers from
various sources of radiation, including natural sources, enhanced sources of naturally
occurring radioactive material, human made
sources for peaceful purposes such as
nuclear power production and medical use
of radiation, and human made sources for
military purposes including nuclear testing.
According to UNSCEAR’s latest report, the
average worldwide pubic exposure from globally dispersed radionuclides from nuclear
fuel cycle installations is estimated to be
0.18 μSv per person per year of operation
(UNSCEAR [28]). Average annual exposure
to local populations is 25 μSv for mining and
milling (within 100 km of the site), 0.2 μSv
for uranium enrichment and fuel fabrication, 0.1 μSv for nuclear power reactors and
2 μSv for fuel reprocessing (within 50 km of
the site).
To put these numbers into context, Fig. 12
shows the levels of exposure that people are
subjected to. The global averages are shown
in the coloured bars, and regional variations
are indicated with error bars. Major sources
of external exposure are cosmic rays from
outer space and natural terrestrial radionuclides existing in the Earth’s soil and in building materials like granite and marble. The
level of exposure to cosmic rays depends
primarily on latitude and altitude. Exposure
also arises from the intake of radionuclides in
the Earth’s soil by inhalation (mainly radon)
and ingestion (in the form of food and drinking water). Altogether, worldwide exposure
to natural radiation sources for an average
individual is 2420 μSv per year, with a typical
range of between 1 000 and 13 000 μSv per
year (UNSCEAR [28]).
In the case of major nuclear accidents, radioactive contamination of the environment
close to the site can be severe. Radiation
effects can last for years or decades, and
decontamination is very expensive. Environmental impacts due to radiation may cause
significant economic damages by suspending economic activities including agricultural
production in the affected area until regulatory safety limits have been reached again.
FIG. 12. Public exposure to radiation from global sources (average shown by a bar, and typical range
shown by a line) (UNSCEAR [28]).
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Making progress on waste management and
disposal solutions
Another concern surrounding nuclear
energy is radioactive waste, which can create hazards for humans and the environment lasting for centuries - or millennia.
The nuclear industry has provided for
the safe temporary surface storage
of spent fuel for more than 50 years.
Over the past two decades, major advances
have been made towards the first operating
final disposal facility.
During the nuclear fission process in the
reactor, the fuel becomes intensely radioactive due to the formation of new radionuclides, known as fission products. After
removal from the reactor, spent fuel is temporarily stored under water while the fission
products decay and both radiation levels and
heat generation decrease.
The disposal of radioactive waste in geological media is considered to be a safe method
for isolating these substances from the
hydrosphere, the atmosphere and the biosphere. The fundamental principles involved
in geological disposal are well understood
(Chapman and McCombie [29]; Alexander
and McKinley [30]). Geological repositories are designed to be passively safe based
on multiple engineered and natural barriers
against any release of radionuclides. They
are sited in suitable rock formations chosen
principally for their long term stability and
effectiveness as natural barriers (Bachu and
McEwen [31]).
Programmes to dispose of spent fuel
are well advanced in several countries (IAEA [32]). In Sweden, with broad
public support, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel
and
Waste
Management
Company
30
submitted in March 2011 its application for a
final spent fuel geological repository to be
located in Östhammar. Construction should
start in 2015, and disposal operations are
expected to start in 2025. At the Olkiluoto
site in Finland, the Onkalo access tunnel was
excavated, by the end of 2010, to a length
of 4570 m and its final disposal depth of
434 m. Initially, Onkalo will function as an
underground rock characterization facility to ensure the suitability of the site. Then
the access tunnel and other underground
structures will be used for disposal. The construction licence application is expected in
2012 and the operating licence process is
expected to be completed by around 2020.
An issue associated with final repositories is
that of retrievability, i.e. whether it should be
possible to retrieve wastes from a repository
if required and, if so, for how long. On the one
hand, future generations may consider the
buried waste to be a valuable resource. On
the other, permanent closure might increase
the long term security of the repository.
Relevant policies in most countries require
retrievability for at least 100 years.
Storage and disposal are complementary
rather than competing activities, and both are
needed to ensure safe and reliable nuclear
waste management. The timing and duration
of these options depend on many factors.
Although perpetual interim storage is not
feasible because active controls cannot be
guaranteed forever, there is no urgency for
abandoning it on technological or economic
grounds. However, ethical and political reasons require the establishment of final disposal facilities.
Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons
Nuclear power must not only be safe but
also be used solely for peaceful purposes.
Unlike other energy forms, nuclear energy
was first harnessed for weapons purposes.
The non-destructive applications of nuclear
energy, such as civilian nuclear power generation, only followed afterwards. The IAEA was
established in 1957 to help States reconcile
the dual nature of the atom, so that nuclear
energy could be put squarely in the service
of peace and development. The IAEA Statute
directed the IAEA to “enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and
prosperity throughout the world” and that
“…assistance provided by it (Agency)…is
not used in such a way as to further any military purpose”.
Over the course of several decades, the
international community has put in place a
number of international political and legal
mechanisms to help stem the spread of
nuclear weapons. They include the Treaty
on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and regional nuclear-weapon-free
zone treaties, export controls, nuclear security measures, and also importantly, the safeguards system of the IAEA. The purpose
of the safeguards system is to provide
credible assurances to the international community that nuclear material and other specified items are not
diverted from peaceful nuclear activities, and, by the risk of early detection, to deter proliferation.
States accept the application of safeguards
measures through the conclusion of safeguards agreements. Over 170 States have safeguards agreements with the IAEA. Although
there are various types of safeguards agreements, the majority of States have undertaken to place all of their nuclear material
and activities under safeguards. Article III of
the NPT requires each non-nuclear-weapon
State to conclude an agreement with the
Agency to enable the IAEA to verify the
fulfilment of the State’s obligation not to
develop, manufacture or otherwise acquire
nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive
devices. Under such ‘comprehensive safeguards agreements’, a State commits to provide information on its nuclear material and
activities, and to open up for inspections.
Over time and in response to new challenges,
the safeguards system has been strengthened. The IAEA’s experience in the early
1990s in Iraq and in the Democratic People’s
Republic of Korea led to important strengthening measures, including the adoption of the
Model Additional Protocol, which provides
the IAEA with important supplementary
tools that provide broader access to information and locations. Some 110 States have
brought into force such additional protocols
to date.
The IAEA’s inspection activities are supported
by advanced technology and techniques. It
takes special expertise, equipment and infrastructure to carry out the IAEA’s verification
activities. The IAEA designs customized safeguards approaches for individual States and
uses dedicated equipment for carrying out
verification activities at different stages of the
nuclear fuel cycle. When inspecting nuclear
installations in the field, safeguards inspectors use specialized equipment to carry out
their work. To help detect possible undeclared nuclear material and activities, Agency
inspectors take environmental samples in the
field which are then analysed at the IAEA
Safeguards Analytical Laboratories in Austria
and by the IAEA’s global Network of Analytical Laboratories. The IAEA constantly monitors innovative technologies that enable it to
carry out its verification activities not only
more effectively but also more efficiently.The
IAEA also participates in international efforts
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to make future nuclear technologies more
proliferation resistant to begin with. The final
product of the IAEA’s safeguards implementation activities are the so-called ‘safeguards
conclusions’, which are published annually
in the IAEA’s Safeguards Implementation
Report (IAEA [33]). The report includes a
yearly safeguards statement for each State
with a safeguards agreement in force.
32
The IAEA plays an instrumental verification
role, providing assurances to and on behalf
of States that nuclear non-proliferation commitments are being respected. A resilient
safeguards system that provides credible
assurances to the international community is
the ultimate stamp of confidence that enables the promotion of the peaceful use of
nuclear energy.
The Fukushima-Daiichi accident is projected to
slow growth in nuclear power but not reverse it
The IAEA publishes annually two updated
projections for the world’s nuclear power
generating capacity, a low projection and a
high projection. The 2011 updates take into
account the effects of the Fukushima-Daiichi accident. In the updated low projection,
the world’s installed nuclear power
capacity grows from 367 gigawatts-electric (GW(e)) today to 501 GW(e) in 2030,
down 8% from what was projected last year.
In the updated high projection, it grows
to 746 GW(e) in 2030, down 7% from
last year.
The number of operating nuclear reactors
increases by 87 by 2030 in the low projection (254 reactors are constructed, and 167
are retired) and by 348 in the high projection
(440 reactors are constructed, and 92 are
retired), from a base of 441 reactors at the
end of 2010. Most of the growth will occur in
countries that already have operating nuclear
power plants.
Projected growth is greatest in the Far East
(Fig. 13). From 81 GW(e) at the end of 2010,
capacity grows to 180 GW(e) in 2030 in the
low projection and to 255 GW(e) in the
high. These levels are, however, lower than
last year’s projections by 17 GW(e) and
12 GW(e), respectively.
The low projection assumes current trends
continue with few changes in policies affecting nuclear power. But it does not necessarily
assume that all national targets for nuclear
power will be achieved. It is a ‘conservative
but plausible’ projection.
The high projection assumes that the current financial and economic crises will be
overcome relatively soon and past rates of
FIG. 13. Prospects for nuclear power in major world regions: (a) estimates of installed nuclear
capacities; (b) estimates of nuclear electricity generation (IAEA [27]).
33
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economic growth and electricity demand
will resume, notably in the Far East. It also
assumes stringent global policies to mitigate
climate change.
The low and high projections are developed
by experts from around the world who are
assembled by the IAEA every year. They
consider all the operating reactors, possible
license renewals, planned shutdowns and
plausible construction projects foreseen for
the next several decades. They build the projections project by project by assessing the
plausibility of each in light of, first, the low
projection’s assumptions and, second, the high
projection’s assumptions.
34
The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident
has caused deep public anxiety throughout the world and damaged confidence in
nuclear power. Since the accident, a number
of countries announced reviews of their
programmes, some took steps to phase out
nuclear power entirely, and others re-emphasized their expansion plans. The continued
growth in both the low and high projections
suggests that the factors that contributed to
increasing interest in nuclear power before
the Fukushima-Daiichi accident have not
changed, including increasing global demand
for energy as well as concerns about climate
change, volatile fossil fuel prices and security
of energy supply.
Fast reactors in a closed fuel cycle can use
uranium more efficiently
Fast breeder reactors have been developed
since the 1960s with demonstration
and prototype reactors being operated
in several countries, including China,
France, Germany, India, Japan, the
Russian Federation, the United Kingdom
and the USA. Operated in a closed
fuel cycle (Fig. 14), such reactors
have the potential both to increase
the energy output from a given
amount of uranium by a factor of
60–70 and to significantly reduce the
quantities, heat load and hazardous
lifetime of the ultimate waste to be
disposed of.
Twelve experimental fast reactors
with thermal power ranging from 10 to
400 MW(th) and six commercial sized
prototypes with electrical output ranging
from 250 to 1200 MW(e) have been
constructed and are being operated. The
closed fuel cycle has been demonstrated
and important experience, even in
decommissioning such reactors, has been
gained.
Research on fast reactor technology
continues under a number of initiatives.
International initiatives include the
Generation IV International Forum
(GIF [34]) and the IAEA’s International
Project
on
Innovative
Nuclear
Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO)
(IAEA [35, 36]), which assists participating
Member States in assessing, developing
and implementing innovative nuclear
energy systems. National initiatives
include programmes in China, Europe,
India, Japan, the Republic of Korea,
FIG. 14. The fast reactor fuel cycle.
35
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the Russian Federation and other
countries with the goal of having the first
Generation IV fast reactor demonstration
plants and prototypes in operation around
2025–2030.
Europe has defined a strategy and
technological pathway for fast reactors
that includes development of the sodium
cooled fast reactor as a first track aligned
with Europe’s prior experience and two
alternative fast reactor technologies to be
explored on a longer timescale, the lead
36
cooled fast reactor and the gas cooled fast
reactor.
The Russian Federation, which currently
operates the most powerful commercial fast
reactor — the BN-600 in Beloyarsk — and
is constructing the BN-800, has recently
launched a ‘Federal Target Programme’
enititled ‘New Generation Nuclear Power
Technologies for 2010–2015 with outlook
to 2020’ aimed at the development of
several fast reactor technologies as well as
the related fuel cycles.
Nuclear fusion has long term promise
In contrast to nuclear fission, where heavy
nuclei are fragmented and release energy
through a chain reaction, in fusion two light
nuclei fuse together to form a larger one
(see Fig. 15(a)). A small part of the reactants’
mass is converted to energy. The most
practical fusion reaction for energy use is
that between deuterium (D) and tritium
(T), both isotopes of hydrogen (Fig. 15(b)).
There are two approaches for controlled
fusion for power generation, magnetic and
inertial. The more developed of the two
is magnetic fusion, where a hot ‘plasma’, a
‘soup’ of free electrons and ions, is confined
by powerful magnets in a toroidal device. It
is currently the most promising path toward
future fusion reactors. The most mature
concept for achieving magnetic confinement
is called a ‘tokamak’. To achieve fusion
using the magnetic confinement technique,
the challenge is to create a plasma of the
fusion reactants with a sufficiently high
temperature (150 million ºC) and density
and to hold it confined for a time long
enough for the fusion reactions to sustain
the plasma temperature, such that the
reaction become self-sustaining (see Box).
Fusion research entered a new era in
2006 with agreement to construct an
International Thermonuclear Experimental
Reactor (ITER). ITER brings together
nations and organizations representing half
of the world’s population, including China,
the European Union, India, Japan, the
Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation
and the USA. ITER will be the first fusion
reactor producing 500 MW of fusion power,
ten times more than the input auxiliary
heating power. Construction began in 2008
in Cadarache, France.
History of fusion research
Controlled thermonuclear fusion research, aimed at converting fusion energy
into electrical energy, has been under way for more than 50 years. Since 1970,
the power produced by magnetic fusion in the laboratory has grown from
0.1 W, produced for a fraction of a second, to 16 million W produced for one
second. During the past few decades, significant scientific and technological
progress has been achieved, comparable to that of computer chips as
described by Moore’s law. Specifically, the so-called ‘triple product’ (density
multiplied by temperature multiplied by confinement time), measuring the
performance of a fusion plasma has doubled every 1.8 years, comparable to
the doubling of the number of transistors on computer chips every two years.
Fusion performance measured by the triple product has increased by a factor
of 10 000 over 30 years. Only about another factor of 6 is needed to attain
the level required for a power plant (Tran et al. [37]).
37
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Beyond ITER, various nations have programmes to build demonstration fusion
reactors to supply electricity to their grids.
Depending on the technology development
road map adopted and the availability of
funding, it is plausible that fusion R&D will
lead to successful fusion ignition experiments within a decade or so and commercially viable fusion reactors generating electricity by the second half of this century.
FIG. 15. Nuclear fusion. (a) Schematics of fusion and fission reactions; (b) magnetic fusion between
deuterium and tritium.
(a)
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38
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40
© IAEA, 2011
Printed by the IAEA in Austria
November 2011
The mention of names of specific companies or products (whether or not indicated as
registered) does not imply any intention to infringe proprietary rights, nor should it
be construed as an endorsement or recommendation on the part of the IAEA. The views
presented in this booklet are not necessarily those of the IAEA or its Member States.
Cover photograph courtesy of TVO/Hannu Huovila.
11-43751
@
For more information, please contact:
Planning and Economic Studies Section
Department of Nuclear Energy
International Atomic Energy Agency
Vienna International Centre
PO Box 100
1400 Vienna, Austria
Tel: +43-1-2600-22776
Fax: +43-1-2600-29598
Email: [email protected]
www.iaea.org/OurWork/ST/NE/Pess/
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