CLIMATE CHANGE AND NUCLEAR POWER 2009

CLIMATE CHANGE AND NUCLEAR POWER 2009
CLIMATE CHANGE
AND
NUCLEAR POWER
2009
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Main messages
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. Managing anthropogenic climate change
is one of the foremost environmental challenges humanity is facing in the 21st century.
There is increasing evidence put forward by
climate modellers that the climate system of
the Earth is warming due to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs),
especially carbon dioxide (CO2), resulting
from human activities, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels. A rapid reversal of the
increasing emissions trends and reductions
by 50–80% is required by 2050 to avoid distressing climate change impacts in 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 paradigm shift in the global approach
to energy, however, GHG emissions
will increase even further. Meeting the
soaring energy demand would require primary energy of the order of 17 gigatonnes
of oil equivalent (Gtoe) in 2030 and around
23 Gtoe in 2050. In the absence of sweeping policy interventions, this will lead to an
increase in energy related CO2 emissions
by 55% in 2030 and by 130% in 2050 relative to 2005. The double challenge over the
next 10–20 years will be to keep promoting
economic development by providing reliable,
safe and affordable energy while significantly
reducing GHG emissions.
Nuclear power belongs to the range of
energy sources and technologies available today that could help meet the climate–energy challenge. GHG emissions
from nuclear power plants are negligible and,
together with hydropower and wind generation, they belong to the lowest CO2 emitters
when emissions through the entire life cycle
are considered. In the electricity sector,
nuclear power has been assessed to have the
largest potential (1.88 Gt CO2-equivalent) 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 US $20/t CO2-equivalent. Nuclear energy could account for about
15% of the total GHG reduction in power
generation in 2050.
Nuclear energy can contribute to
resolving other energy supply concerns
and it has non-climatic environmental
benefits. Significant increases in fossil fuel
prices in recent years, fears of their sustained
high levels in the future and concerns about
the reliability of supply sources in politically
unstable regions are fundamental items to
consider in present-day energy strategies.
Nuclear power can help alleviate these concerns because ample uranium resources are
available from reliable sources spread all over
the world and the cost of uranium is only a
small fraction of the total cost of nuclear electricity. Nuclear power can also help reduce
local and regional air pollution. Among the
power generation technologies, it has one of
the lowest external costs (i.e. costs in terms
of damage to health and the environment, for
example, which are not accounted for in the
price of electricity). Such costs attributed to
nuclear power are minuscule.
The economics of nuclear power is
improving and will be further enhanced
by the increasing CO2 costs of fossil
based electricity generation. Recent
assessments indicate that the ranges of levelized costs of electricity from natural gas,
coal and nuclear sources largely overlap
between 2 to 9 US cents/kW•h, hence the
choice among them depends on local circumstances, such as the lack or availability of
cheap domestic fossil resources. The costs of
CO2 emission reduction by CO2 capture and
geological disposal and charges for the emitted CO2 arising for fossil based electricity
gives competitive advantage to nuclear
power. Despite increasing construction costs,
financing nuclear power investments will be
feasible under stable government policies,
proper regulatory regimes and adequate
risk allocation schemes. Once the business
case for increasing nuclear investments is
established, manufacturing and construction
capacities will expand as required.
Concerns about nuclear energy regarding radiation risks, operation safety,
waste management and proliferation
are easing, as reflected in improving
public acceptance. Nevertheless, the
nuclear sector needs to improve further and provide adequate responses
to these concerns in order for it to
realize its full potential. Radiation risks
from normal plant operation remain low,
that is, at a level that is virtually indistinguishable from natural and medical sources of
public radiation exposure. Concerted efforts
by international organizations, such as the
IAEA, and by operators of nuclear facilities
have made nuclear power plants one of the
safest industrial branches for their workers
and the public at large. Geological and other
scientific foundations for the safe disposal
of radioactive waste are well established.
The first repositories will start operation in
10–15 years. Institutional arrangements are
being improved and further technological
solutions sought to prevent the diversion of
nuclear material for non-peaceful purposes.
Climate change mitigation is one of
the salient reasons for increasingly
considering nuclear power in national
energy portfolios. Other reasons include
fears of sustained high fossil fuel prices, price
volatility and supply security. Nuclear power
is also considered in adaptation measures to
climate change, such as sea water desalination or hedging against hydropower fluctuations. Where, when, by how much and under
what arrangements nuclear power will contribute to solving these problems will depend
on local conditions and national priorities,
and on international arrangements, such as
the flexibility mechanisms under the new
protocol of the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change.Yet the decision about introducing or expanding nuclear
energy in the national energy portfolio rests
with sovereign States.
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Introduction������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 3
Need for nuclear power
The climate change challenge������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 4
The global energy challenge��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 6
Nuclear power is a low carbon technology ������������������������������������������������������������� 8
… and has been contributing to avoided GHG emissions for decades����������������� 10
IPCC: Nuclear has the largest and lowest cost GHG reduction potential
in power generation ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 12
IEA: Nuclear contribution to GHG mitigation can be significant��������������������������� 14
Contribution to resolving other energy supply concerns��������������������������������������� 16
Nuclear energy applications beyond the power sector ����������������������������������������� 18
Nuclear power has non-climatic environmental benefits��������������������������������������� 20
Supplying nuclear power
Nuclear power economics is becoming favourable������������������������������������������������� 22
Nuclear investment costs are increasing, but ��������������������������������������������������������� 24
… financing nuclear power investments is feasible������������������������������������������������� 26
Construction capacity will expand as needed��������������������������������������������������������� 28
Sufficient uranium is available to fuel increasing nuclear power generation����������� 30
Concerns about nuclear power
Radiation risks are low��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 32
Nuclear plant safety keeps improving ��������������������������������������������������������������������� 34
Waste management and disposal solutions are progressing����������������������������������� 36
Putting proliferation concerns at the forefront������������������������������������������������������� 38
Increasingly favourable public acceptance��������������������������������������������������������������� 40
Prospects for nuclear power
Projections reflect rising expectations worldwide ������������������������������������������������� 42
References ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 44
Annex
National perspectives on climate change and nuclear power��������������������������������� 49
Climate change and nuclear power in Brazil: An unexpected link������������������������� 50
Nuclear power development and its nexus with climate change in China������������� 52
Will climate policies foster a revival of nuclear power generation in Italy?����������� 54
Climate change and nuclear energy in Japan����������������������������������������������������������� 56
Mitigating climate change: Malaysia’s national perspective
amid growing nuclear energy appeal����������������������������������������������������������������� 58
Climate change and nuclear power in Thailand: Balancing the driving forces��������� 60
Climate change and nuclear power in the United Kingdom: Clearing the path����� 62
US action on climate change and nuclear power����������������������������������������������������� 64
References to the Annex������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 66
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Introduction
Climate change remains one of the principal
problems the world is facing in the early 21st
century. Together with the economic crisis
and poverty, it is one of the three main global
challenges highlighted in the declaration of
the G8 Summit 2009 in L’Aquila, Italy. In their
Declaration, leaders of the G8: “…recognise
the broad scientific view that the increase
in global average temperature above preindustrial levels ought not to exceed 2°C…”
(see Ref. [1]).
The possibility of global climate change
resulting from increasing anthropogenic
emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) has
been a major concern in recent decades.
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, even today, some 1.6 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 use the
language of Article 2 of the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change
(UNFCCC) [2].
To take the initial steps in reducing the risk
of global climate change, industrialized countries (listed in Annex I of the Convention1)
have made commitments to reduce their
collective GHG emissions under the Kyoto
Protocol to the UNFCCC during 2008–2012
by at least 5.2% below 1990 levels. Since the
USA did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, the
actual reduction will be only about 3.8% of
the 1990 Annex I emissions. This reduction
is far outweighed by increases of emissions
in non-Annex I countries in the same period.
However, much deeper global emissions
cuts will be necessary in the next few decades to achieve the 2°C goal declared by the
G8 Summit. Intense negotiations under the
UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol through
2009 aspire to reach a comprehensive global
agreement for the post-2012 period in order
to achieve those dramatic reductions over
the long term.
Nuclear power plants produce virtually no
GHG emissions during their operation and
only very low amounts of emissions on a life
cycle basis. Nuclear energy could, therefore,
be an important part of future strategies
to reduce GHG emissions. Nuclear power
is already an important contributor to the
world’s electricity needs. It supplied 14%
of global electricity and a significant 27%
of electricity in western Europe in 2008.
Despite this substantial contribution, the
future of nuclear power remains uncertain.
In liberalized electricity markets, there are
several factors which may contribute to
making nuclear power less attractive than
fossil fuelled power plants, including the
high upfront capital costs for building new
nuclear power plants, their relatively long
construction time and payback period, the
lack of public and political support in several
countries for new construction — as well
as renewable portfolio requirements. These
factors have, however, altered in recent years
due to concerns about climate change, fossil
fuel prices and energy security.
This report summarizes the potential role
of nuclear power in mitigating global climate
change and its contribution to other development and environment challenges, as well
as its current status, including the issues of
cost, safety, waste management and nonproliferation. The publication is a revised and
updated version of the 2008 edition.
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nnex I includes the member States of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (drawing
from the 1990 membership) as well as Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia,
Lithuania, Poland, Romania, the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine.
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The climate change challenge
There have been an increasing number of scientific assessments of the many impacts of
climate change in recent years. These assessments indicate that anthropogenic GHG
emissions will need to be reduced drastically
over the next few decades in order to avoid
severe climate change impacts that would
be difficult or impossible to cope with, and
to achieve what politicians aspire to as targets for tolerable levels of climate change.
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 trigger increasingly negative impacts in all climate sensitive sectors in all regions of the world [3].
In mid-latitudes 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 latitudes (partly compensated by increased productivity at mid-latitudes and high latitudes). Natural ecosystems
will also be affected negatively: up to 30% of
species will be at a growing risk of extinction in terrestrial areas; in addition, increased
coral bleaching is forecast in the oceans.
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 heatwaves,
floods and droughts.
Figure 1 presents the pathways towards stabilizing climate change in various ranges of
global warming as established by the IPCC
[4]. The underlying calculations imply that in
order to prevent a global mean temperature
increase by more than 2.0–2.4°C above the
2 pre-industrial level, GHG concentrations
should not exceed the range of 445–490 ppm
CO2-equivalent2 (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 decline by 50–85% relative to 2000 by 2050. The Synthesis Report
of the 2009 Copenhagen Conference on
Climate Change [5] presents three emission
pathways for energy related 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 of keeping the global mean temperature increase below 2°C:
at 15%, 50% and 75% probability, respectively.
The lowest trajectory entails negative global
emissions after 2070.
This illustrates the enormous mitigation
challenge the world will face over the next
decades. In the Fourth Assessment Report
(AR4) of the IPCC, Chapters 4–10 of the
Working Group III (WGIII) [6] review a large
number of bottom-up studies that assessed
mitigation potential in seven sectors (energy
supply, transport, buildings, industry, agriculture, forestry and waste) by focusing on
specific technologies and regulations in large
world regions (Organisation for Economic
Co-operation and Development (OECD)
countries, economies in transition (EIT) and
non-OECD/EIT countries) over two time
horizons: medium term (up to 2030) and
long term (through to 2100).
Both the IPCC WGIII and the Copenhagen
Synthesis reports maintain that many mitigation technologies and practices that could
reduce GHG emissions are already commercially available. According to the IPCC [6],
technical solutions and processes could
reduce the energy intensity in all economic
T
he definition of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq.) is the amount of CO2 emissions that would cause the
same radiative forcing as an emitted amount of a well mixed GHG (CO2, methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O),
perfluorocarbons (PFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)) and ozone depleting substances (ODSs: chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), halons) or a mixture of well
mixed GHGs, all multiplied by their respective greenhouse warming potentials to take into account the differing
times they remain in the atmosphere.
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sectors and provide the same output or
service with lower emissions. Fuel switching
and modal shift (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, the increased use
of renewables and nuclear power, as well
as carbon capture and storage (CCS) in
the energy sector, could result in significant
GHG reductions. Aggregating the options in
each sector, the economic mitigation potential is estimated to be between 0.7 (waste
management) and 6 (buildings) Gt CO2-eq.
annually on the basis of carbon prices below
$100/t CO2-eq. in 2030. The aggregated global economic mitigation potential in 2030
amounts to some 16–31 Gt CO2-eq./year
at this carbon price out of total baseline
GHG emissions of about 56 Gt CO2-eq.
About 6 Gt CO2-eq. of the total mitigation
potential could be realized at negative cost,
because the associated benefits (reduced
energy costs and less damage due to lower
local and regional air pollution) exceed their
costs.
The IPCC AR4 confirmed that, compared
with other anthropogenic sources, GHG
emissions from the energy supply sector
grew at the fastest rate between 1970 and
2004. Currently, energy related CO2 emissions (including feedstocks) comprise by far
the largest share (about 60%) of total global GHG emissions. In the absence of additional policy interventions (relative to those
already in place), annual GHG emissions from
energy production and use are projected to
reach 34–52 Gt CO2 by 2030. This implies, as
Chapter 4 of the WGIII puts it, that:
“[T]he world is not on course to achieve
a sustainable energy future. The global
energy supply will continue to be dominated by fossil fuels for several decades.
To reduce the resultant GHG emissions
will require a transition to zero- and low
carbon technologies” (Ref. [6], p. 255).
FIG. 1. CO2 emissions and equilibrium temperature increases for a range of stabilization levels
(based on Refs [4, 5]).
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The global energy challenge
Energy is generally recognized as a central
issue in sustainable development. Several
high level conferences and declarations have
emphasized that the provision of adequate
energy services at affordable costs, in a
secure and environmentally benign manner,
and in conformity with social and economic
development needs, is an essential element
of sustainable development. Reliable energy
services are the preconditions for investments that bring about economic development. They facilitate the learning and study
that are crucial for developing human capital.
They also promote equity by giving a chance
for the less well off to study and thus provide a possible escape from poverty. Therefore, energy is vital for alleviating poverty,
improving human welfare and raising living
standards. Yet, worldwide, 2.4 billion people
rely on traditional biomass as their primary
source of energy, and 1.6 billion people do
not have access to electricity [7] — conditions which severely hamper socioeconomic
development.
All recent socioeconomic development
studies project major increases in energy
demand, driven largely by demographic and
economic growth in today’s developing
countries. Of the world’s 6.8 billion people, about 82% live in non-OECD countries
and consume only 53% of global prim­
ary energy. Alleviating this energy inequity
will be a major challenge. A growing global
population will compound the problem. The
Medium Variant of the latest projections of
the United Nations estimates an additional
1.5 billion people by 2030, and another
840 million by 2050, bringing the world’s
population to about 9.15 billion by the middle of this century [8].
The rising population will enjoy increasing
economic welfare despite the current economic crisis. According to the World Bank
[9], after the projected meagre 0.9% global GDP growth in 2009, it is expected to
rebound to 2% in 2010 and 3.2% in 2011.
Developing countries are projected to
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expand at 4.4% (2010) and 5.7% (2011), still
below the robust performance before the
crisis. Over the long term, the World Bank
[10] projects a 3.1% average annual growth
rate for the world economy up to 2015 and
2.5% between 2015 and 2030. Developing
countries will grow fastest, while OECD
countries will grow at the slowest rate. Per
capita incomes in developing countries are
projected to triple from $1550 in 2004 to
$4650 in 2030.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) of
the OECD makes similar assumptions about
these two main drivers of global energy
demand in its World Energy Outlook (WEO)
2008 [11]. World population is projected to
increase to 8.2 billion by 2030, while the global economy is assumed to grow at an annual
average rate of 4.2% up to 2015 and 2.8%
between 2015 and 2030. Based on these
two main drivers, and additional assumptions about technological development and
resource availability for the energy sector,
the IEA projects in its Reference Scenario
that world total primary energy demand will
grow to over 17 Gtoe by 2030 [11] and will
exceed 23 Gtoe in 2050 according to the
extended Reference Scenario presented in
the Energy Technology Perspectives (ETP)
2008 [12]. The evolution of the resulting global primary energy mix and the corresponding global energy related CO2 emissions are
shown in Fig. 2.
Reflecting upon the elevated oil prices
in preceding years, the IEA drastically
increased its assumptions about the future
international oil prices in WEO 2008 relative
to WEO 2007 [13]: from $60 to $100 on
average between 2008 and 2015 and from
$62 to $120 on average between 2015 and
2030. Yet these changes are projected to
cause only minor shifts in the world primary
energy demand up to 2030. Global energy
demand and energy related CO2 emissions
are projected to be only about 4% lower in
2030 in the 2008 projection than was the
case in the WEO a year earlier.
The ETP study [12] presents the global
energy prospects up to the middle of the
century. The most notable changes projected
for the next half century in the IEA Reference Scenario include the following:
—Coal is expected to surpass oil as the
largest primary energy source by 2040,
due to the persistent high growth in
demand for electricity in coal rich countries such as China and India.
—Gas is projected to level out at around
4.5 Gtoe by the middle of the century.
—Despite a 31% increase in volume
between 2005 and 2050, the nuclear
share in the global primary energy balance is projected to decline from 6.3% in
2005 to 4.8% by 2030 and to 4% by 2050.
The climate change implications of the Reference Scenario are severe. Energy related
CO2 emissions — the largest component of
global GHG emissions — increase by 55%
in 2030 and by 130% in 2050 relative to
2005 (see Fig. 2). Assuming that other GHGs
increase at comparable rates, this would
put the Earth on track towards atmospheric GHG concentrations of the order of
1000 ppm CO2-eq. and an equilibrium warming of over 5°C in terms of global mean temperature increase above the pre-industrial
level (see the grey corridor in Fig. 1). Consequently, these trends sharply contradict the
G8 declaration of the need to keep global
mean temperature increase below 2°C and
point to the urgent requirement for deploying low carbon technologies.
FIG. 2. Global primary energy sources (left axis) and energy related CO2 emissions (right axis) in the
IEA’s WEO 2008 (up to 2030) along with the ETP 2008 (2030–2050) Reference Scenarios
[11, 12].
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Nuclear power is a low carbon technology…
Dozens of studies in recent years have estimated the life cycle GHG emissions from a
suite of power generation technologies. The
results of serious technical studies tend to
diverge somewhat due to varying assumptions about the different components of the
technology, conversion efficiencies and GHG
emissions factors of the energy sources
involved, and other features of the fuel chain.
For nuclear power, the most important component in determining the life cycle emissions is the technology (and fuel mix) used to
enrich uranium. Gaseous diffusion, the technology widely used in the past and still in use
in several countries, requires a substantial
amount of electricity: “roughly 3.4% of the
electricity generated by a typical US reactor
would be needed to enrich uranium in the
reactor’s fuel” [14]. However, the industry
has been increasingly switching to gaseous
centrifuge technology, which requires only
about 2% of the energy input needed for
gaseous diffusion (less than 50 kW•h/SWU3
in contrast to the 2400 kW•h for gaseous
diffusion), thereby drastically reducing the life
cycle GHG emissions from nuclear power,
even if the electricity is supplied from fossil sources. The share of centrifuge based
enrichment is approaching 70% globally;
hence, there is still room to improve the
life cycle emission balance of the nuclear
fuel cycle. All other GHG emissions from
generating nuclear power, including cement,
iron and steel production for constructing
the power plants, are very low when spread
over the lifetime electricity generation of the
plant.
A recent paper by Weisser [15] reviews
a set of life cycle GHG assessments published between 2000 and 2006. The studies reviewed represent the state of the art
with respect to the details, methods and
3 complexity of the assessments and the electricity generation technologies, including
upstream (before generation) and downstream (post-generation) processes. The full
technology chain for nuclear energy includes
uranium mining (open pit or underground),
milling, conversion, enrichment (diffusion
or centrifuge), fuel fabrication, power plant
construction and operation, reprocessing,
conditioning of spent fuel, interim storage
of radioactive waste, and the construction
of the final repositories. Weisser finds that
for the most widely used reactor technology
(light water reactors), GHG emissions during the operational stage of the reactor, relative to cumulative life cycle emissions, are of
secondary importance — ranging between
0.74 and 1.3 g CO2-eq./kW•h. The bulk of
the GHG emissions arise in the upstream
stages of the fuel and technology cycle, with
values between 1.5 and 20 g CO2-eq./kW•h.
As noted, this span is largely due to which
enrichment process the various assessments considered and to what extent they
accounted for nuclear fuel recycling. The
GHG emissions associated with downstream activities, such as decommissioning
and waste management, range between 0.46
and 1.4 g CO2-eq./kW•h. Cumulative emissions for the studies reviewed by Weisser
lie between 2.8 and 24 g CO2-eq./kW•h.
Figure 3 presents a summary of life cycle
GHG emissions for a range of power generation technologies and fuels.
Figure 3 shows that 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 on a life cycle basis. Coal based
generation, even if equipped with CCS, is
estimated to emit about one order of magnitude more GHGs per unit of electricity
than the three truly low carbon generating
T
he separative work unit (SWU) combines the amount of uranium processed, the composition of the starting
material and the degree to which it is enriched into a single indicator. The SWU indicates the amount of energy
used in enrichment, when feed, tails and product quantities are expressed in kilograms. For example, processing 100 kg of natural uranium takes about 61 SWU to produce 10 kg of low enriched uranium with 4.5% 235U
content, at a tails assay containing 0.3%.
8
technologies (note the different vertical
scales in Figs 3(a) and (b)). These results
are consistent with the conclusions of similar studies by extensively cited authors and
organizations [16–18].
It is possible to reduce GHG emissions from
nuclear energy technologies even further.
Dones et al. [19] highlight three key areas
of improvement: (1) reduce electricity
input for the enrichment process (e.g.
replacement of diffusion by centrifuges or
laser technologies); (2) use electricity based
on low or non-carbon fuels; (3) extend
nuclear power plant lifetimes and increase
burnup (the amount of electricity generated
from 1 t of uranium).
While the technology based life cycle assessments provide useful information about the
relative merits of power generation technologies in terms of GHG emissions, the real
proof of the competitiveness of technologies
in a carbon constrained world will be the
introduction of a uniform price on all GHG
emitting activities via a carbon tax or emission permit trading. This arrangement will
also demonstrate the relative merits of the
technologies in the broad context of market
competition.
FIG. 3. Life cycle GHG emissions for selected power generation technologies [15]:
(a) fossil technologies; (b) non-fossil technologies.
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…and has been contributing to avoided 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 in
30 countries around the world. Globally,
the amount of prevented emissions is
comparable with that of hydropower.
This is demonstrated by calculating CO2
emissions avoided by hydroelectricity,
nuclear power and renewables in global
electricity generation. Clearly, the calculated
amounts of avoided emissions depend on
the assumptions about which technology and
fuels would have replaced the low carbon
emitting technologies. For the purposes of this
analysis, it was assumed that the electricity
generated by hydropower, nuclear energy and
renewables would have been produced by
increasing the coal, oil and natural gas fired
generation in proportion to their respective
shares in the electricity mix in any particular
year. This approach underestimates the
emissions avoided, as most of the nuclear
capacity expansion in the 1970s and early
1980s would have been substituted by coal
rather than by oil and natural gas, since the
rationale for investing in nuclear power was
specifically a reduction in the oil and gas
dependence of electricity generation (an
effect of the oil crises of the 1970s).
During the ‘dash for gas’ period after the mid1980s, only a few nuclear power plants were
built and thus there is no overestimation, as
the coal share would have been much higher
(in the absence of nuclear power and other
low carbon electricity sources) than it was in
reality (even if only gas had substituted for
nuclear power).
Figure 4 shows the historical trends of CO2
emissions from the global power sector
and the amounts of avoided emissions by
using hydropower, nuclear energy and other
renewable electricity generation technologies.
FIG. 4. Global CO2 emissions from the electricity sector and emissions avoided by three low carbon
generation technologies. (Source: IAEA calculations based on IEA data [20].)
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The height of the red columns indicates the
total CO2 emissions in any given year. The
applicable amounts of avoided emissions in a
given year were added to the actual emissions
to illustrate the relative contribution of the
three low carbon electricity sources and
to show the estimated global power sector
CO2 emissions in their absence. In 2007,
for example, global CO2 emissions from
electricity generation exceeded 11.1 Gt CO2,
but they would have amounted to 11.6 Gt
CO2 in the absence of non-hydro renewable
sources, 13.7 Gt CO2 without hydropower,
13.4 Gt CO2 in a world without nuclear
power and almost 16.4 Gt CO2 without all
these three low carbon sources.
Figure 5 confirms these global trends by
depicting the CO2 intensity and the shares
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 clearly 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 (Norway and
Brazil), nuclear (France) or the combination
of these two (Switzerland and Sweden). At
the other extreme, countries with high CO2
intensity (800 g CO2/kW•h and more) have
none (Australia) or only limited (China and
India) shares of these sources in the power
generation mix.
FIG. 5. CO2 intensity and the shares of non-fossil sources in the electricity sector of selected countries.
(Source: IAEA calculations based on IEA data [21].)
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IPCC: Nuclear has the largest and lowest cost
GHG reduction potential in power generation
The IPCC [6] presents GHG mitigation
potentials for seven sectors (energy supply,
transport, buildings, industry, agriculture, forestry and waste management). This section
focuses on the power sector. The IPCC [6]
estimates the mitigation potential in terms
of GHG emissions that can be avoided by
2030 by adopting various electricity generating technologies in excess of their shares
in the baseline scenario (the Reference Scenario in the IEA’s World Energy Outlook
2004 [22]). The technologies include fuel
switching within the fossil portfolio, nuclear,
hydropower, wind, bio-energy, geothermal,
solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating
solar power (CSP), as well as coal and gas
with CO2 capture and storage (CCS).
The IPCC analysis assumes that each technology will be implemented as far as economically and technically possible, taking
into account practical constraints (stock
turnover, manufacturing capacity, human
resource development, public acceptance,
etc.). Each technology is assessed in isolation
(i.e. possible interactions between deploying
various technologies simultaneously are not
accounted for). The estimates indicate how
much more (relative to the baseline) of each
technology could be deployed in major world
regions at costs falling in ranges between less
than 0 (possible for nuclear, hydropower,
wind, bio-energy and geothermal sources),
0–20, 20–50, 50–100 and more than $100/t
CO2-eq. Mitigation costs reflect differences
between the cost of the low carbon technology and that of what it replaces. Negative costs indicate reduced energy costs and
ancillary benefits arising from reduced local
and regional air pollution.
Given the overwhelming share of fossil fuels
in electricity generation, the first option is
to replace existing fuels and technologies by
less carbon intensive fossil fuels and more
efficient technologies, respectively. Another
possibility to reduce CO2 emissions from
fossil fuel combustion is CCS. However, as
the IPCC notes about CCS: “[P]enetration
by 2030 is uncertain as it depends both on
the carbon price and the rate of technological advances in cost and performance” (Ref.
[6], p. 298). For 2030, the potential global
emissions reductions from CCS used with
FIG. 6. Mitigation potential in 2030 of selected electricity generation technologies in different cost
ranges. (Source: Based on data in Table 4.19 of Ref. [6], p. 300.)
12
coal and gas fired power plants are estimated
at 0.49 Gt CO2-eq. and 0.22 Gt CO2-eq.,
respectively.
Of the low carbon power generation technologies assessed in the IPCC report [6],
those with a mitigation potential of more
than 0.5 Gt CO2-eq. are considered more
closely. Figure 6 shows the potential GHG
emissions that can be avoided by 2030 by
adopting the selected generation technologies. The figure indicates that nuclear power
represents the largest mitigation potential at
the lowest average cost in electricity generation: 50% at negative costs, the other 50% at
less than $25/t CO2-eq. Hydropower has the
second cheapest mitigation potential, but its
volume is the smallest among the five options
included in Fig. 6. The mitigation potential of
wind energy is also significant, but it is spread
across three cost ranges, albeit more than
one third of it can be utilized at negative
cost. Bio-energy, too, has a significant total
mitigation potential, but only less than half of
it could be harvested at costs below $20/t
CO2-eq. by 2030.
The mitigation potential of nuclear power
is based on the assumption that it displaces
fossil based electricity generation. The mitigation volume estimated by the IPCC for
nuclear power reflects the contribution it
could make to global climate protection by
increasing its share of 16% in the global electricity mix in 2005 to 18% by 2030. This is a
small increase in share, yet a major increase
in volume if we consider the fast growth of
power generation projected for the given
time horizon. The potential nuclear share
in the electricity mix and the resulting additional (above baseline) power generation are
presented in Fig. 7 for the three large global
regions and the world.
Nuclear power clearly belongs to the set of
options available to reduce GHG emissions
in the electricity sector. A significant part
(about 2 Gt CO2-eq.) of the GHG reduction
potential offered by nuclear, hydropower,
wind and bio-energy can be realized at negative cost if they displace fossil fuel power
plants. Nonetheless, fossil fuels are likely to
remain important players even in a carbon
constrained world, especially if they can realize the mitigation potentials arising from fuel
switch and plant efficiency improvements, and
from adding CCS to coal and gas fired power
plants. The relative costs of these technologies vary widely according to national and
regional conditions that will determine which
energy sources and mitigation options will be
used in different parts of the world.
FIG. 7. Nuclear power shares, generation volumes and avoided GHG emissions.
(Source: Based on data in Table 4.11 of Ref. [6], p. 296.)
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IEA: Nuclear contribution to GHG mitigation
can be significant
The International Energy Agency (IEA) publishes biannually an in-depth energy technology assessment for the world. The 2008
report on Energy Technology Perspectives
[12] presents an in-depth survey of energy
technologies and prospects for their evolution up to 2050. The study extends the IEA
Reference Scenario projection [13] of global
energy supply and GHG emissions to 2050.
The report’s mitigation scenarios involve
two targets for reducing energy related CO2
emissions relative to the Reference Scenario
(62 Gt CO2) by 2050. The so-called ACT
scenarios stipulate that CO2 emissions peak
around 2030 at 34 Gt CO2 and decrease to
2005 levels (27 Gt CO2) by 2050. In the much
more ambitious BLUE scenarios, global emissions peak before 2020 and decline to 50% of
the 2005 level, to around 14 Gt CO2 by 2050.
According to the IEA scenarios sorted
by technology areas, end use efficiency
improvements and changes in the power sector represent the bulk of the low cost mitigation opportunities. End use fuel efficiency
and electricity end use efficiency account for
44% and 36% of the CO2 emissions reduction under the ACT Map and the BLUE Map
scenarios, respectively. End use fuel switching
and higher levels of electrification contribute
an additional 3% and 7%. Fuel switching, CCS
and nuclear energy comprise 31% and 23%
of the reductions in the ACT Map and BLUE
Map scenarios, respectively.
Sorting the two mitigation scenarios according to sectors and technology options, the projected CO2 reductions are: in buildings, 7 Gt
CO2/year and 8.2 Gt CO2/year; in the transport sector, 8.2 Gt CO2/year and 12.5 Gt
CO2/year; whereas in industry, 5.7 Gt CO2/
year and 9.2 Gt CO2/year in the ACT Map
and BLUE Map scenarios, respectively. Nevertheless, power generation is projected to
FIG. 8. Nuclear contribution to the mitigation of energy related CO2 emissions by 2050 in two IEA
scenarios [12]: (a) 2050 CO2 emissions at 2005 level (27 Gt CO2); (b) 2050 CO2 emissions
at 50% below 2005 level (14 Gt CO2). (Symbols used in the figure are explained as follows:
PV: photovoltaic; CSP: concentrating solar power; IGCC: integrated gasifier combined cycle;
UC/SC: ultra/supercritical coal; BIGCC: biomass integrated gasifier combined cycle.)
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(a)
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contribute most to CO2 mitigation: about 35
Gt CO2/year (40%) in the ACT Map and 48
Gt CO2/year (38%) in the BLUE Map scenario.
Nuclear energy is a significant component of
the emission reductions in the power sector,
by accounting for about 15% of the CO2 savings in both mitigation scenarios (see Fig. 8).
The projected amount of CO2 avoided by
nuclear power is estimated at 2 Gt CO2/year
in the main ACT scenario and 2.8 Gt CO2/year
in the main BLUE scenario in 2050. This
would require expanding the world nuclear
fleet by 24 (ACT) and 32 (BLUE) additional
1000 MW units annually above the nuclear
investments in the Baseline Scenario without
GHG constraints.These rates are 18% (ACT)
and 60% (BLUE) above the highest historical
expansion rates of the global nuclear energy
capacities, but are considered to be feasible
according to the IEA scenarios.
Among the variants of the ACT and BLUE
scenarios, the IEA report [12] also presents
a high nuclear variant, in which the nuclear
generation capacity is allowed to grow to
2000 GW in 2050, compared with the constraints in the ACT and BLUE Map scenarios
limiting nuclear capacity to a maximum of
1250 GW in the same year. The underlying
IEA model calculates that almost all of this
huge nuclear capacity potential will be used.
Total global emissions in this variant are 0.5 Gt
CO2 lower in 2050 than in the BLUE Map scenario (Ref. [12], pp. 88–89). Nevertheless, this
variant requires stretching nuclear construction capacities even further, to an average of
50 GW each year between now and 2050.
This is 20 GW/year more than the highest
recorded construction rate in the past. It is
important to recall, however, that the historical high rates of the 1970s and 1980s reflect
nuclear expansions in relatively small regions
in terms of global energy demand growth
(North America, Japan and Europe), whereas
the future nuclear expansion will also involve
additional regions with already fast growing nuclear manufacturing and construction
capacities (east and south Asia).
The special early excerpt of the World
Energy Outlook 2009 (released in October
2009) confirms the importance of nuclear
power in achieving the emission trajectory towards a GHG concentration limit of
450 ppm CO2-eq: world nuclear generation
capacity is projected to grow to 500 GW
by 2020 and exceed 700 GW by 2030. This
entails a doubling of global nuclear energy
capacities between 2008 and 2030.
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FIG. 8. (cont.)
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Contribution to resolving other energy supply
concerns
In addition to staggering increases in demand
for all forms of energy, particularly electricity, and the need to reduce GHG emissions,
there are several other issues on the current
energy policy agendas of many countries that
nuclear energy might contribute to resolving.
The first factor is the price of fossil energy
sources. The rate of infrastructure development in fossil resource extraction and delivery in key supply regions is lagging behind the
fast growing energy needs, and this exerts a
sustained upward pressure on international
oil and gas prices, even if one takes into
account the speculative bubble that affected
commodity prices and culminated in mid2008. This in itself is a strong motivation for
countries with high shares of imported fuels
for their electricity generation to look for
substitutes. Political conflicts in key supply
regions exacerbate the price pressure and
raise severe concerns over the security of
supply per se, even at high prices. This is yet
another reason for considering alternative
electricity sources.
Energy importing developing countries tend
to be more worried about the sustained
high price level because it would severely
increase their energy import bills, affect their
current account balances and undermine the
competitiveness of their export industries.
In developed countries, energy is a relatively
smaller fraction of their total import bills and
the energy content of their exports is lower.
Developed countries are more worried
about direct losses due to supply disruptions,
especially if they might render expensive
capital and labour capacities idle for some
time.
Another, but closely related, factor is price
volatility. All elements of the energy supply
infrastructure are long lived. Energy intensive
industries base their investment decisions on
cautious expectations about future energy
and electricity prices. A reasonable degree of
stability and predictability of resource prices
is crucial for such decisions because hedging against large price fluctuations might be
vastly expensive.
FIG. 9. The distribution of reported uranium resources and production in 2006:
(a) uranium resources; (b) uranium production. (Sources: Refs [23, 24].)
(a)
16
Nuclear power can help mitigate these concerns. The price of uranium is a small fraction of nuclear based electricity, as opposed
to power costs from coal and especially gas
based generation. Doubling the price of uranium would increase the nuclear electricity
price by about 4%, whereas doubling the
price of coal would lead to an increase of
about 40% and a doubled gas price to an
increase of almost 70% in the corresponding
electricity prices.
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. Nuclear power has one
additional feature that generally further
increases resilience. Figure 9(a) shows that
currently known and reported resources
and reserves of the basic fuel, uranium, are
spread in politically stable regions over five
continents. Figure 9(b) reveals a similar
diversity of uranium production and supply in 2006. Moreover, the small volume of
nuclear fuel required for one load to run a
reactor for one year or so, makes it easier
to establish strategic inventories on or close
to the reactor site. 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. 9. (cont.)
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Nuclear energy applications
beyond the power sector
In recent years, utilization of nuclear energy
beyond the power sector has been increasingly considered. The emerging potential of
its use in several non-electric applications
is due to two special characteristics: the
extremely high energy content of nuclear
fuel and the wide temperature range in
which different reactor designs can operate (200–1000°C). These two features offer
various options for humanity to resolve
resource constraints, ranging from freshwater supply to liquid and solid fossil fuel
extraction, and to provide a new fuel for the
transport sector. Among these non-power
applications, water desalination, extraction
of non-conventional oil sources, cogeneration with coal and hydrogen production for
transport are discussed here. The required
temperature ranges and the corresponding
reactor types are presented in Fig. 10.
Freshwater availability is a severe problem
in many countries, as 2.3 billion people live
in water stressed regions and among them
1.7 billion live in water scarce areas [26].
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. Desalination is very
energy intensive, and most desalination
plants today use fossil fuels as their primary
energy source, thus contributing to GHG
emissions.
Nuclear desalination is already a method
used by some countries in order to meet
freshwater requirements. In Kazakhstan, the
BN-350 fast reactor at Aktau produced up
to 135 MW of electricity and 80 000 m3/day
of potable water for over 27 years until it
was retired in 1999. In Japan, several desalination facilities are linked to power reactors
and each provides 1000–3000 m3/day of
potable water for the reactor’s own cooling system. India also has been operating
18
a Nuclear Desalination Demonstration
Project at the Madras power station since
2002 [27]. According to the IAEA [28], using
20% of the electrical capacity of a 600 MW
nuclear reactor operating in cogeneration
mode can purify 500 000 m3/day of water.
Another option for nuclear desalination is
using deep pool reactors that provide heat
as a source for sea water desalination and
cogeneration of heat for district heating if
needed. An economic analysis of this desalination system shows that it will decrease the
total specific capital investment and levelized
water cost [29].
As the availability of sweet crude is declining,
the remaining hard crude has to be extracted
in order to meet oil demand. Refining hard
crude needs more energy and hydrogen, in
which nuclear energy can play a significant
role. Donnelly and Pendergast [30] propose
a process in which hydrogen produced by
nuclear power might have high importance,
especially in the extraction of oil from the
tar sands of the Athabaska region in Canada, and hard crude in other regions of the
world. Currently, a lot of CO2 is released due
to energy use and hydrogen production for
oil extraction and refining from the tar sands
of Alberta, since the present major source
of energy is gas. Using nuclear reactors for
supplying energy and producing hydrogen
will significantly reduce the carbon emissions
from recovering oil from the tar sands.
Rather than as a rival energy source for
coal, nuclear energy can help to reduce the
carbon emissions from coal burning. Given
the huge coal deposits in several countries
and regions (China, India, Australia, South
Africa, North America), the gasification of
coal for integrated gasification combined
cycle (IGCC) combustion might be a feasible GHG emission mitigation technology.
Nuclear heat from high temperature gas
cooled reactors (HTGR) can be used for the
gasification of coal along with the generation
of electricity, which would reduce carbon
emissions significantly [31].
GHG emissions from transport have been
growing at a fast rate globally. As a result,
there has been increasing attention to the
options to reduce emissions from the transport sector without constraining the mobility of people and goods. Increasing the fuel
efficiency of internal combustion engines
still holds considerable reduction potential. Another option is to look for alternative fuels and engine technologies. Using
hydrogen as a fuel has been on the research
and development agenda for some time,
but progress in terms of its potential commercial utilization was stalled owing to the
ample availability of cheap fossil fuels.
There are different processes to produce
hydrogen. Among them, thermochemical
water splitting (heat plus water yields
hydrogen and oxygen) is considered as
highly efficient and more economical than
electrolysis of water with electricity [32].
This process needs a high temperature
(750–1000°C). Nuclear reactors can provide
the heat required to split water to produce
hydrogen. This offers many possibilities,
because reactors could be installed with
peak load capacities, and the excess power
during the baseload operation could be
used for producing hydrogen that can be
stored and used for transport and other
applications.
It is not possible to predict which of these
non-electric options will be used in the
energy hungry 21st century, or to what
extent, but evidence has been accumulating
in recent years that promising opportunities might emerge for using nuclear energy
beyond baseload electricity generation.
FIG. 10. Possible uses of nuclear energy beyond power generation [25]. (Symbols used in the figure
are explained as follows: HTGR: high temperature gas cooled reactor; AGR: advanced gas
cooled reactor; LMFR: liquid metal cooled reactor; L/HWR: light/heavy water reactor.)
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Nuclear power has non-climatic
environmental benefits
In addition to helping to mitigate climate
change, the displacement of fossil based
power plants by nuclear power can also
reduce the emissions of other air pollutants
that lead to negative human 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 per
year [33]. 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 (which is the air pollution concentration level recommended by WHO),
air quality related deaths could be cut by
around 15%. Currently, the energy supply sector accounts for one quarter of the
total particulate matter (PM10) emissions in
the European Union [34]. Although the air
quality in Europe has improved significantly
in recent years, particulate matter in the air
decreases life expectancy of every European
by, on average, almost one year.
A recent study [35] analyses the consequences (including the implications for local
air pollution) of lifting the restrictions on a
potential expansion of the nuclear capacity
in Europe (projecting a 45% nuclear expansion by 2030). According to the analysis, the
resulting reduction of particulate matter
concentration in Europe would lead to significantly lower chronic diseases (–3% in the
number of people with bronchitis and –2.5%
in restricted activity days), as well as premature deaths (–1.9%) by 2030, amounting to
a welfare gain of €32–559 billion (a median
estimate of €165 billion).
At the regional scale, air pollutants travelling
long distances cause acid rain, harming nature
20
at large. Acid rain disturbs ecosystems,
leading to adverse impacts on freshwater
fisheries and on natural vegetation and
crops. In particular, acidification of the
forest ecosystems could lead to forest
degradation and dieback. Furthermore, it
causes damage to certain building materials,
including historic and cultural monuments.
Acid rain is caused by sulphur and nitrogen
compounds, and fossil fuel based power
plants, particularly coal power plants, are
the major source of the emission 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 temperature as well
as the hydrological cycle [36]. Technology
solutions exist to reduce these emissions but
the cost of installation might make nuclear
power more attractive.
An extended assessment was coordinated by
the European Commission within the framework of the ExternE project that compared
the externalities (positive and negative side
effects not reflected in the price of electricity) of different power supply options in
monetary terms [37]. The European Environmental Agency used the ExternE results and
other information sources for quantifying
one of its energy related indicators referred
to as ‘external costs of electricity production’ [38]. The estimated average European
Union external costs for electricity generation technologies in 2005 are presented
in Fig. 11. They are calculated by assessing
and aggregating three components: climate
change damage costs from CO2 emissions,
damage costs (health, crops, etc.) caused by
the emissions of other air pollutants (NOx,
SO2, PM10, etc.), and other non-environmental social costs for non-fossil power generation technologies. In the numerous methodological challenges, and the attribution
and quantification of uncertainties (see Ref.
[39]), two stand out as particularly contentious. The first is the external costs of CO2
emissions that range from 19 €/t CO2 in the
low estimates to 80 €/t CO2 in the high estimates adopted for the fossil fuel technologies included in Fig. 11. The second issue is
the external cost arising from a nuclear
power accident. The ExternE-Pol study [37]
excluded this cost item due to the methodological difficulties of estimating it. Therefore,
the EEA used the corresponding estimate
from a study prepared for the IEA’s Implementing Agreement on Renewable Energy
Technology Deployment [40] that estimates
the accident related externality of nuclear
power at 0.25 eurocents/kW•h.
These results demonstrate that, due to strict
technology and safety regulations, meticulous environmental impact assessments, rigorous design, site and operation licensing
procedures, the nuclear industry has already
internalized the bulk of the potential external environmental, health and social effects.
This was achieved by adopting technological solutions that prevent harm rather than
by payments to compensate for harm. This
characteristic of nuclear power is the source
of significant ancillary (non-climate) benefits
when it is implemented for climate change
mitigation.
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FIG. 11. Estimated average European Union external costs for electricity generation technologies in
2005. Based on data from Ref. [38]. (Symbols used in the figure are explained as follows:
PFBC: pressurized fluidized bed combustion; CHP: combined heat and power; CCGT:
combined cycle gas turbine; LWR: light water reactor; PWR: pressurized water reactor.)
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Nuclear power economics is becoming
favourable
The economics of nuclear power needs
to be addressed at two levels: firstly, the
direct explicit costs of generating 1 kW•h of
electricity levelized across the lifetime of the
power plant; and, secondly, the social costs,
including all externalities that happen to be
predominantly positive in the case of nuclear
power. The costs of decommissioning and
waste disposal are collected and accumulated
through the operating lifetime of the power
plant, whereas the social benefits of avoided
CO2 emissions or increased supply security
remain unaccounted for in the absence of
comprehensive GHG taxes or emissions
permit markets. In addition to regulatory
uncertainties, both in the nuclear sector
and in the electricity market in general, the
unrewarded social benefits (equivalent to
the gap between private and social costs of
fossil competitors) represent another factor
that discourages potential investors.
Nuclear power plants have a ‘front loaded’
cost structure (a feature shared with most
renewables); that is, they are relatively
expensive to build but relatively inexpensive
to operate (compared with fossil based
generating capacities). The low share of
uranium costs in total generating costs
protects plant operators and their clients
against resource price volatility. Thus,
existing well run operating nuclear power
plants continue to be a generally competitive
and profitable source of electricity. For
new construction, however, the economic
competitiveness of nuclear power depends
on several factors. Firstly, it depends on
the alternatives available. Some countries
are rich in alternative energy resources,
others less so. Secondly, it depends on the
overall electricity demand in a country and
how fast it is growing. Thirdly, 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 than to a government that can consider the longer term, particularly in a regulated market that assures
attractive returns. Private investments in
FIG. 12. Ranges of levelized electricity costs associated with new construction as estimated in recent
studies for electricity generating technologies in different countries [41].
22
liberalized markets will also depend on
the extent to which energy related external costs and benefits (e.g. 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.
applications for combined construction permit–operating licences.
In Japan and the Republic of Korea, 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 Emission Trading Scheme (EU
ETS) have improved the business case for
new nuclear power plants. In the USA, the
2005 US Energy Act significantly strengthened the incentives for new construction. Its provisions, including government
coverage of costs associated with certain
potential licensing delays, loan guarantees
and a production tax credit for up to 6000
MW of advanced nuclear power capacity,
have improved the business case enough
for nuclear firms and consortia to file 17
The impacts of CO2 costs (carbon tax or
emission permits) on electricity prices
have already been shown in the European
Union in recent years. High electricity
prices through mid-2006 were partly due
to the high allowance price in the EU ETS.
Wholesale electricity prices fell after the
permit price under the first phase of ETS
collapsed but rebounded in 2007 and
2008, with higher prices under the second
phase of the scheme. Figure 13 illustrates
the changes in median levelized electricity
costs of different power sources (depicted
in Fig. 12) as a function of increasing CO2
costs. The graphs show that at a CO2 price
of about $10/t, the median cost of nuclear
electricity becomes lower than that of coal
based power and the gap between median
costs of nuclear and gas based electricity
reaches 20% at the CO2 cost of $30/t.
Figure 12 summarizes estimates from recent
studies of electricity costs for new power
plants with different fuels. The wide ranges
are due partly to different techno-economic
assumptions across the studies, but also to
the factors listed previously. Moreover, the
ranges incorporate internalized costs only.
FIG. 13. The impact of CO2 costs on levelized electricity costs of different power sources.
23
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Nuclear investment costs are increasing, but …
Nuclear electricity is more capital intensive
than fossil power generation. High upfront
investment costs and long construction time,
as well as political, regulatory and public
perception risks make nuclear financing
more challenging. However, once the plant is
in operation, the low operating costs offset
the high investment costs and result in the
low levelized cost of electricity (the previous
section on nuclear power economics
addresses this issue).
The total investment costs of a nuclear
power plant include overnight costs (OC),
interest during construction (IDC) and
escalation costs during construction.The OC
shows how much the plant would cost if no
interest were incurred during construction,
and it includes engineering–procurement–
construction costs (equipment, materials
and labour are known as direct costs; plant
design, engineering and support services, as
indirect costs), owner’s costs (site evaluation,
site preparation and additional transmission
infrastructure), and contingency costs (or
unforeseen costs). IDC includes the costs
of financing plant construction until it is
connected to the grid and generates revenues.
Since construction takes years, IDC alone
can tilt the balance between an economically
viable or unviable project. Assuming an OC
of $3350/kW with a typical distribution over
the construction period, a 10% real interest
rate and a construction period of five years
carries $1128/kW of IDC (or 37% of OC).
An increase in the construction period from
five years to six or ten years would increase
IDC to 41% or 75% of OC, respectively.
The investment costs presented in cost
studies and industry quotations between
2002 and 2005 range from $1000 to
$2500/kW and show no obvious cost
escalation. However, in estimates reported
from 2007 to 2009, the OC range from
$1400/kW to $6000/kW and the total
investment costs range from $2250/kW
to $8000/kW. Figure 14 groups the OC
estimates by region. The data are taken from
publicly available sources, which generally
lack details about what is included in the
indicated costs. This leads to large variations
FIG. 14. Ranges of nuclear power overnight costs by region 2007–2009. (All costs are in 2008 dollars.)
(Source: Ref. [42].)
24
depending on differences in sites, local
inputs, labour and material costs, accounting
practices, connection cost, government and
regulatory processes, electricity markets,
exchange rate or currency fluctuations,
financial markets, etc., as well as changes in
these factors over time. Tight commodity
markets and steeply rising international
prices for iron ore, copper, steel, cement,
energy, etc. up to 2008 have undoubtedly
contributed to the escalating OC estimates.
Commodity prices have eased somewhat in
2009 but they are not yet reflected in the
nuclear cost estimates.
A possible explanation of the wide range
of cost estimates can be the difference in
perspectives: vendors have an incentive to
be optimistic about costs, while utilities tend
to be more conservative. Another factor
contributing to regional differences is recent
experience: the region with the most recent
experience in building new reactors, Asia,
has the lowest cost estimates and smallest
variation. The region with the least recent
experience, North America, has the highest
estimates and greatest variation. Positive
investment experience lowers perceived and
real risks for investors. Lack of construction
experience might entail higher contingency
rates and may be seen as a risk that affects
the credit rating of a utility and leads to
higher interest rates. Moreover, in countries
with ongoing nuclear power investments, the
transition from second to third generation
technology is likely to be smoother. The cost
barriers associated with first of a kind plants
are correspondingly lower than in countries
without such recent experience and in
countries investigating the nuclear power
option for the first time. It is perceived
that as successful experience accumulates,
construction costs for the nth copy of any
design is likely to decline. For example, the
total cost of the fifth and sixth units of the
Korean Standard Nuclear Power Plant was
15% below that for the first and second units
[43]. A lengthening successful track record
should also reduce risks perceived by lenders
and shareholders, and thus lower the cost of
capital.
As a complement to Fig. 12 (ranges of
levelized costs of electricity), Fig. 15 presents
ranges of the overnight construction costs
for the three main power technologies. It is
interesting to see that significant shares of
the reported projects (mean ± one standard
deviation) are in a relatively narrow range for
nuclear, coal and gas.
FIG. 15. Ranges of OC estimates for the main electricity generation technologies 2007–2009.
(Source: Ref. [42].)
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… financing nuclear power investments is
feasible
In the past, governments generally used public funds — either tax revenues or electricity tariff charges — to finance investments
in nuclear power. Currently, however, governments are looking towards the private
sector to a greater extent to finance new
infrastructure investments. Cognizant of this
fact, the utility industry and the financial sector have devised some incentives to invest in
nuclear projects. The utilities would use their
balance sheet to invest in joint ventures such
as ‘build–own–operate’ schemes. The financial sector is also catering to the investor’s
need and interest in nuclear — evidence that
the financial markets recognize an interest
for investment in the nuclear industry, by
venturing funds such as Van Eck’s Market Vectors Nuclear Energy Exchange-Traded Fund
(ETF) and the Nuclear Indices (such as Global Nuclear Energy Index and Standard and
Poor Global Nuclear Energy Index).
Over the last decade, governments are
relying more on industry and private sector participation to initiate new innovative
financial structures for the nuclear industry.
Figure 16 displays the ownership and risk
transferability from public to private, with
a move from the more traditional low risk
government financing, where a new built
project is financed on a state budget, to
industry participation. These include financing models already employed in the nuclear
industry where project sponsors have some
options for generating equity among themselves. One source of equity could be balance
sheet financing or corporate finance, where a
new built project is financed on a corporate
basis. The Flamanville 3 project in France is
an example in which the French utility, Électricité de France (EDF), is financing most of
the project on its robust balance sheet and
future revenues (with some investment from
ENEL of Italy [44]).
Other new models include equity partners
who can provide equity in kind or principal
customers (worried about security of supply
and risk diversification) as major shareholders.
26
An example is the Finnish model adopted for
the Olkiluoto 3 power plant. This is a cooperative model in which a consortium formed
by large industrial consumers and municipal
utility companies contribute to the project
investment, share the risks and rewards once
the project completes and generates revenues. This can also be considered a type of
hybrid financing (corporate/project finance),
where the equity investment is financed by
the shareholders, a long term purchasing
power agreement (PPA) with large customers ensuring future stable revenue stream
from the project, and leverage characteristics
similar to project finance. The project also
benefits from low financing costs, partly due
to the long term PPA, the support from the
French Government Export Credit Agency,
and the turnkey contractual arrangement
with the French firm, Areva.
More recently, some trends towards project
finance have begun to emerge. Large utilities
are forming companies to venture into the
nuclear market, while others have clearly
stated that if new nuclear power plants are
feasible, separate project companies will
be established to build the new plants on a
‘build–own–operate’ basis [45].
It is envisaged that, over time, as new plants
are built, the hybrid style financing models might become more apparent in the
nuclear industry, where multiple equity partners share the risk. Another risk mitigation
option can be corporate bond issuance by
the company owning the nuclear plant, with a
higher stable credit rating. This might reduce
financing costs by repaying the loans used to
finance the new plant. Other options can be
offering ownership to strategic and industrial
partners [46] or through Initial Public Stock
Offering (IPO).
Well structured nuclear projects, where risks
are identified upfront, pose less uncertainty
to financiers and are easier to finance. Risks
arising from regulatory uncertainty can be
mitigated by an efficient regulatory body.
Other risks, such as unknown costs, first of
a kind, licensing, delayed construction, public
acceptance and legal risks, can also be contained with a well planned project schedule
and an appropriate risk allocation. Options
such as phased financing can contain the risk
of construction cost overruns. This involves
financing a project in tranches, starting with
construction. The cost of capital for each
phase will reflect only the risks of that phase
rather than a high risk premium for the
whole construction. This model is already
implemented in China and proposed for new
plants in the USA. Well reputed vendors,
operators and project managers along with
some form of government guarantee can also
give assurance to the finance industry to venture into new financing schemes for nuclear
power plants. In developing countries, initial
financing arrangements for a new nuclear
plant that includes some government funding or support, along with assistance from
multilateral financial institutions and export
credit agencies might be attractive for private
investors to join in.
In the short term, the financial crisis of 2008
will have an impact on the financing facilities available for investors regarding large
scale infrastructure (such as nuclear), as the
financial institutions restructure and rebuild
their balance sheets.Tighter regulation of the
financial industry might also affect commercial lending in the future. However, the historic low interest rates might be supportive
of new investments, along with the decline in
the commodity prices, which might reduce
the construction costs for new plants. So
far, nuclear power plants under construction
have not been affected by the crisis. Some
countries postpone or stretch out their construction schedules, while others consider
it a favourable time and revise their nuclear
planning programmes upward.
FIG. 16. Financing models.
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Construction capacity will expand as needed
Assuming that nuclear power is competitive
and financing new construction will be feasible, the next question is whether there will
be sufficient specialized manufacturing capacity to build new reactors at the required
rate. Moreover, a considerable amount of
specialized knowledge is required to control
the entire construction process and, later,
to operate the plants. Therefore, a major
challenge for the nuclear industry over the
next decade will be to satisfy the increasing
demand as well as to transfer nuclear knowledge to the next generation.
Growth in energy demand and the need to
reduce GHG emissions in order to tackle
climate change has created new prospects
for the nuclear industry. China, India and the
Russian Federation have all recently made the
political decision to launch large scale nuclear
programmes to add significant amounts of
new generating capacity to their national
grids. Several OECD countries (e.g. France
and the United Kingdom) that have not built
nuclear plants for years are now considering replacing their ageing reactors with new
ones, and expanding their nuclear reactor
fleet. By September 2009, applications for a
combined construction permit–operating
licence in the USA involved 17 sites and 26
possible new reactors [47].
Reactor pressure vessels, vessel heads, steam
generators, steam turbines, reactor coolant pumps and other components must be
manufactured to the highest standards to
ensure safety. The most demanding items
are the pressure vessels, which require high
capacity presses for producing heavy forgings. Japan Steel Works (JSW) has been considered by many in the industry as the leader
in ultraheavy forgings (see Fig. 17(a, b)). JSW
has a series of hydraulic forging presses ranging from 3000 to 14 000 t, the latter able to
take 600 t steel ingots, as well as a 12 000 t
pipe-forming press. Currently, JSW can only
produce four reactor pressure vessels and
associated components per year, but capacity expansions are under way to triple this
28
output to twelve by mid-2012. This involves
an investment of ¥80 billion ($837 million) in
two phases [49].
In recent years, many other companies
established such capacities in preparation for
meeting the rising expectations for nuclear
power. The Japanese company Mitsubishi
Heavy Industries (MHI) has the capacity to
produce vessels for two-, three- and fourloop pressurized water reactors (PWRs),
including the 1538 MW APWR at its Futami
plant in Kobe. Recent plant upgrading is
expected to enable the handling of even
larger components. In total, MHI is to invest
¥40–50 billion ($380–470 million) in its facilities at Kobe and Takasago, and to hire 1000
more employees for its nuclear division by
2013 [50]. More recently, MHI announced a
JPY 15 billion ($138 million) investment to
double its capacity to make nuclear reactor pressure vessels and other large nuclear
components by 2011 [51].
The Russian company, OMZ Izhora, also
announced the doubling of its capacity, providing large forgings for Russian reactors to
be built domestically and internationally [52].
Another Russian company in the heavy equipment manufacturing branch, ZiO-Podolsk, is
increasing its capacity to the level sufficient
for producing four nuclear equipment sets
per year. This company will complete the
reactor pressure vessel for the BN-800 fast
reactor at Beloyarsk by early 2010 and will
also produce steam generators for several
new nuclear power plants in the Russian
Federation [53].
Doosan Heavy Industries in the Republic
of Korea has established itself as an important actor in this market. The company plans
to increase casting and forging capacities,
including a 17 000 t forging press, by investing 405 billion won ($395 million) by 2011.
Castings production will increase by almost
50% to 300 000 t, while forging capacity will
be almost doubled to 190 000 t/year [54].
Still in eastern Asia, companies in emerging
countries, such as the Dongfang Boiler Group,
Shanghai Electric Group and Harbin Boiler
Works (in China), are getting ready to enter
the very large forgings market. In southern
Asia, India’s Larsen and Toubro are increasing their scope in this area to satisfy both
domestic and international demand.
In western Europe, the nuclear industry is
already enlarging its production capacity to
match the upcoming market. To take part
in the United Kingdom’s new nuclear programme, Sheffield Forgemasters is considering expanding its heavy forging capacity with
a 15 000 t press that would allow the production of large reactor pressure vessels, including Areva’s 1650 MW European Pressurized
Reactor, currently the largest on the market
[55]. Meanwhile, Areva is also increasing its
large forging capacity at Le Creusot in Burgundy, France.
Regarding nuclear staffing, the fast pace of the
nuclear power industry will generate higher
demand for skilled workers, energy experts,
nuclear engineers and technicians. University
programmes and industrial training capacities
are expanding to meet the increasing demand.
For example, in the United Kingdom, British
Energy’s flagship training facility will provide
courses in nuclear technology and excellence in technical leadership to both new
and experienced nuclear professionals [56].
Other nuclear expansion countries have
already begun revitalizing their nuclear education or plan to do so in the near future.
It is obvious that the global nuclear supply
chain will be able to satisfy even the most
ambitious nuclear programmes, but this
will certainly require further investments.
Once the signals of reliable and persistent
demand are sufficiently strong, companies
will undoubtedly invest in new production capacities, since this is how the market
responds and works. There may be some
bottlenecks at the early stages, but the
market will react and adjust itself to bring
forward the required material, staff, components and services. Since the process of planning, licensing and preparing a new construction takes years, this will give sufficient time
for manufacturers to establish the required
capacities.
FIG. 17. Japan Steel Works [48]: (a) reheated 600 t ingot; (b)14 000 t hydraulic press.
29
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Sufficient uranium is available to fuel increasing
nuclear power generation
An often heard concern is ‘peak uranium’ —
the popular fallacy that the world is running
out of uranium some time soon. The 2004–
2006 price surges on the uranium spot market, as well as an interpretation of reserve
to production ratios at face value, prompted
proponents of ‘peak uranium’ to claim that
uranium resources will run out within two
to three decades, making any nuclear energy
expansion a chimera.
Uranium is a metal approximately as common as tin or zinc, and it is a constituent of
most rocks and even of the sea.The economically producible occurrences of any mineral
(the reserves) are a function of demand, ore
concentration, exploration and production
technology, and market price. Hence, reserve
estimates change dynamically with improved
geological knowledge, advances in production technology, demand and price expectations. At higher prices, lower concentration
occurrences may become economically
attractive, while new innovative production
methods may enable production from deposits previously beyond reach. Low prices may
limit reserves to low cost, easy to produce
high concentration occurrences. This does
not mean that physical occurrence of the
mineral no longer exists — it just delineates
the economically recoverable portion of that
resource at a given point in time [57]. Thus,
assessments of the future availability of uranium tend to err on the conservative side.4
Uranium resources are plentiful and per se
do not limit future nuclear power development. As is often the case, the limiting factor is the timely investment in new mining
capacities. The past two decades have seen
a wide gap between actual reactor requirements and fresh uranium production — only
40–60% of global demand was met by freshly
mined uranium. The remainder was made up
from so-called secondary sources: strategic
cold war stocks, down blending of highly
4 enriched weapons grade uranium (megatons
to megawatts), reprocessed uranium and plutonium from spent fuel, etc. Uranium prices
were depressed and many mines closed as
prices of $20/kg U no longer covered variable operating costs. Consequently, global
production capacity is well below reactor
requirements. In the absence of upstream
investments, therefore, the industry will continue to depend on secondary sources for
another decade or so.
Uranium spot prices have been fluctuating
along a declining path from a peak of almost
$300/kg U in 2006 to about $115/kg U in
June 2009. This price level has stimulated
exploration and new mine capacity development around the world. There are even plans
to reopen previously closed mines. Uranium
producers, however, are wary of the secondary supplies.Their future will depend on economics and policy, especially with regard to
spent fuel reprocessing and high level waste
disposal.
According to the latest report published
jointly by the Nuclear Energy Agency of the
OECD (OECD/NEA) and the IAEA [24],
approximately 5.5 million t of global uranium resources had been identified by 2007
(considerably higher than the 4.74 million t
uranium reported three years earlier). This
amount is equivalent to 130 times the global
production of uranium estimated for 2008
(or more than 80 times the reactor requirements). Even without considering unidentified and speculative uranium resources,
which amount to some 10.5 million t uranium [58], unconventional uranium occurrences or reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel,
the resource abundance of uranium is one of
the advantages of nuclear energy over fossil
fuels. In addition, uranium resources are geographically more evenly distributed so that
supply is not concentrated in geopolitically
unstable regions.
U
ranium reserves and resource assessments are capped at production costs of $130/kg U and higher production
cost occurrences are ignored in uranium resource statistics [24].
30
Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel (still containing some 95% of its original energy) can
contribute to a much lower uranium demand
and supply balance. Annual discharges of
spent fuel from the world’s reactors total
about 10 500 t of heavy metal (t HM) per
year, approximately one third of which is
reprocessed to extract usable material (uranium and plutonium) for new mixed oxide
(MOX) fuel consisting of fresh uranium as
well as recycled uranium and plutonium. The
remaining spent fuel is considered waste and
is stored pending disposal.
Advanced reactor designs (such as fast
breeder reactors) and associated fuel
cycles utilize uranium more efficiently
than current reactors and fuel cycles [59].
The advanced technologies, however, will
require reprocessing. There are presently
no fast breeder reactors using reprocessed
plutonium operated commercially anywhere
in the world (reprocessing is more expensive
than fresh uranium fuel), but more than
200 reactor-years of experience has been
accumulated in industry scale breeder
reactors (in France and the Russian
Federation), which provides a good basis
for designing and building commercial
fast breeder reactors when they become
economically competitive. Figure 18 shows
the lifetime of various types of uranium
resources under different fuel cycle and
reactor technology scenarios.
In summary, the lifetime of uranium resour­
ces will be determined by demand, technological change and economics rather than by
geology. As and when cheap uranium sources
become scarce, uranium prices will increase,
which in turn will make reprocessing spent
fuel or the extraction of low concentration
sources profitable for traditional as well as
breeder reactors.
FIG. 18. Estimated years of uranium resource availability for various reactor and fuel cycle scenarios
at 2007 nuclear power utilization levels. (It is important to note that the reported uranium
resource figures are only a part of the already known resources and are not an inventory of
the total amount of recoverable uranium.
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Radiation risks are low
The benefits of the lack of emissions of
GHGs and air pollutants from nuclear power
generation must be assessed in comparison
with the higher levels of radiation associated
with nuclear power plants and their entire
fuel cycle, from mining and milling, uranium
enrichment and fuel fabrication, nuclear reactor operation and fuel reprocessing, to solid
waste disposal and transport. A report by the
United Nations Scientific Committee on the
Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) [60]
presents a full account of radiation emitted
by each and every nuclear power plant in the
world as well as that emitted during fuel cycle
operations. Although even a small amount of
radiation is believed to increase the risk of
cancer, it has been shown that the health risks
due to radiation related to nuclear power
generation are at a level that is statistically
indistinguishable from those due to radiation
exposure from radiation sources existing in
nature. Average worldwide exposure to natural radiation sources for an average individual
is 2.4 millisievert (mSv) per year, with a typical
range of between 1 and 10 mSv. As shown in
Fig. 19, radon accounts for half of the public radiation exposure from natural radiation
sources, followed by terrestrial radiation, cosmic radiation and radiation in food. In comparison, radiation exposure due to nuclear
power production including the full nuclear
fuel cycle is 0.0002 mSv/year for an average
individual.
The reported annual effective dose of individuals from a number of reactor sites (within
50 km from the sites) is in the range of 1 to
500 μSv (1 μSv = 0.001 mSv), with the average estimated as 5 μSv for pressurized water
reactors (PWRs) and 10 μSv for boiling
water reactors (BWRs). For mining and milling operations, the annual effective dose of an
individual living within 1000 km from these
sites is estimated to be about 40 μSv, whereas
for fuel reprocessing it is estimated as 10 μSv
(within 50 km from the sites).
According to an International Commission
on Radiological Protection (ICRP) report
[61], the cancer risk expressed in terms of
cancer cases per 10 000 persons per Sv is
1715. Converting this risk into a health indicator, the exposure of 1 μSv increases the
cancer risk to one in 5.8 million persons.
FIG. 19. Typical sources of public radiation exposure in 2000 (in mSv/year) [60].
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32
Public exposure to radiation is expected from
other industrial activities as well, including
power plants fuelled by energy sources other
than nuclear. Typically, radiation from industrial activities is not systematically monitored,
and the assessment of such exposure is based
on sketchy information derived from isolated
surveys [62]. Nevertheless, the UNSCEAR
attempted comparisons of exposures from
different energy production to the general
population (in 1993 [62]) and to critical
groups (in 2000 [60]). Thorough updates of
these comparisons are in preparation.
Figure 20 shows the collective effective dose
(i.e. effective dose aggregated over affected
population, thus expressed in man-sievert)
received by the public per unit electrical
energy generated (GW•year), based on technologies evaluated in 1993. Due to improved
emission control practices, these estimates
are expected to be significantly lower
when the updates become available. Only
the number for nuclear power is updated
and it is revised to 0.43 man-Sv/GW•year
from 1.34 man-Sv/GW•year [60]. Nuclear
fuel cycle adds 0.48 man-Sv/GW•year to this.
Public radiation exposure from coal mining is
considered insignificant, in the range of 0.1%
to 0.006% of total contribution from coal
fired power plants.
There are a number of occupations in
which workers are exposed to humanmade sources of radiation, including those at
nuclear installations and at other fuel cycles.
UNSCEAR [60] estimates that the average
annual effective dose for workers at nuclear
fuel cycle installations (including uranium
mining) is 1.8 mSv, with 4.5 mSv for mining, 3.3
mSv for milling, 0.1 mSv for enrichment and
conversion, 1.0 mSv for fuel fabrication, 1.4
mSv for reactor operation, 1.5 mSv for fuel
reprocessing and 0.8 mSv for research in the
nuclear fuel cycle. In comparison, the average
annual effective doses for mine workers
(excluding coal mining) and the crew in air
travel are 2.7 mSv and 3 mSv, respectively.The
average annual effective dose for coal miners
is 0.7 mSv.
FIG. 20. Collective effective dose received by the public per unit electricity generated, based on
technologies evaluated in 1993 [62].
90% of fly ash captured
99.5% of fly ash captured
***assuming that one third uses ‘old’ plants, another one third uses ‘new’ power plants, and the rest emits 50 man
Sv per GW•year
*
**
33
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Nuclear plant safety keeps improving
The Chernobyl accident in 1986 was a major
setback to nuclear power. Many lives were
lost, thousands suffered major health impacts
and there were significant environmental and
social impacts. The accident was the result of
an old reactor design, compounded by gross
safety mismanagement. However, this event
also prompted major improvements in the
approach to nuclear safety [63].
A key change was the development of a socalled international nuclear safety regime.
International conventions were put in place,
creating legally binding norms to enhance the
safety of nuclear activities. The IAEA updated
its body of safety standards to reflect best
industry practices. And, importantly, both the
IAEA and the World Association of Nuclear
Operators (WANO) created international
networks to conduct peer reviews and
exchange operating information to improve
safety performance [63]. The outcome is
shown in Fig. 21.The industrial safety accident
rate shows the number of accidents among
employees that result in lost work time,
restricted work or fatalities. With less than
one accident per one million person-hours
worked, the nuclear industry belongs to the
safest industrial work environments.
“The international nuclear safety regime
over the years has produced many
insights on how to minimize safety risks.
But we should not rest on our laurels.
It is essential that existing safety standards, operational practices and regulatory
oversight be adapted — and in some cases
strengthened — to ensure enhanced levels of safety in the future” [63].
In a recent report, it was added:
“[T]he risk of nuclear accidents or malicious acts can never be eliminated and
there can be no room for complacency.
Vigilance and continuous improvement
are key, both at existing nuclear facilities
and at new facilities being planned in a
growing number of countries.The drive to
34
introduce, or expand the use of, nuclear
power always needs to be matched by a
strong commitment to safety and security
as indispensable enablers of nuclear technology” [65].
Since the Chernobyl accident, many improvements have been made, and one can point
to a substantially improved nuclear safety
situation throughout the world, even under
extreme conditions.
“Recent major natural events affected
nuclear installations in a number of
countries, particularly in Asia, beyond
the original design levels. The devastating December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquakes in Japan in 2003,
2005 and 2007 and in China in 2008 all
resulted in flood, geological and/or vibratory ground hazards of intensities higher
than expected by even the most stringently established design basis” [66].
Safety systems at nuclear installations affected
by these severe events responded as necessary to protect workers, the public and the
environment from undue effects. However, in
a few cases, the magnitude of the event was
much more severe than previously thought
possible or anticipated during the design and
construction of affected installations. The reevaluation of the integrity of existing nuclear
installations, taking into account the increased
magnitude observed during these events, has
begun [67].
Nevertheless, there is a very real possibility
that one will become complacent with the
high level of performance. Operational safety
is one of the most challenging areas that the
IAEA deals with [68]. In addition to having to
consider sound engineering and technology
principles, one must take into account the
human and organizational factors that can
either contribute to, or detract from, safety.
There are also economic, political and social
pressures that must be taken into account.
The margin for further safety improvement
is smaller than in the past, and it is more of
a challenge to find and implement continuous improvement. Without sustained safety
improvement effort, a decline will occur.
Therefore, one needs strong safety leadership,
effective safety management and sustained
safety culture, especially for those nuclear
plants facing extended operations [68].
The third review meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Nuclear
Safety [69] identified the fundamental need
for openness and transparency in the nuclear
industry. There was also special emphasis
put on the need for leadership in nuclear
safety from both regulators and operators,
and about the need to continue and improve
communication between them. For operational safety, probabilistic safety assessment
is now a mainstream tool in most countries,
although every Contracting Party stressed
that it is not used in isolation. More and more
countries are now requiring periodic safety
reviews as part of their regulatory regimes.
Knowledge management continues to be
important as experienced staff retire and
as facilities move into extended operation.
It was also noted that peer reviews, such
as those offered by the IAEA and WANO,
play an important role in maintaining and
improving operational safety. Finally, it was
reinforced that the IAEA safety standards
have matured and now offer a comprehensive suite of nuclear safety standards that
embodies good practices and is a reference
point to the high level of safety required for
all nuclear activities [68].
The reduction of safety risks and the
improvement of safety performance are
conditions which begin with strong safety
leadership, effective safety management and
sustained safety culture [70]. When there is a
strong safety culture, maintenance staff excel
in the preparation and execution of the tasks
in compliance with the safety, quality and
technical specifications. The personnel element is crucial for the continuous improvement of safety culture, and this in turn enables each individual to contribute towards
achieving the overall goals. Therefore, solid
emphasis has been put on the proper education of employees in the past years to reinforce this notion.
FIG. 21. Industrial safety accident rate in the nuclear industry. (Source: Ref. [64].)
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Waste management and disposal solutions are
progressing
Another persistent concern surrounding
nuclear energy is radioactive waste, which
can create hazards for humans and the environment for centuries — or millennia. Over
the past two decades, major advances have
been made towards the safe temporary storage and final disposal of radioactive waste in
terms of scientific understanding and technological development.
During the nuclear fission process in the
reactor, the fuel becomes intensely radioactive (due to the formation of new radionuclides, known as fission products), which
reduces the efficiency of the reactor and
must be removed. Spent fuel requires a
period of surface storage to reduce its heat
output. The temporary storage phase is an
important step in the safe management of
radioactive waste, since it helps to reduce
both radiation and heat generation prior to
waste handling and transfer to the final disposal site. In fact, as long as active surveillance and maintenance are ensured, it has
been demonstrated over the past decades
that interim storage of radioactive waste can
be relied upon. Moreover, storage is technically feasible and harmless over a long period
of time if monitoring, control and care are
properly implemented [71].
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.
A crucial but yet unresolved issue is retrievability, that is, whether the option to retrieve
wastes from repositories is required and, if
so, for how long. On the positive side, it is
possible that future generations consider the
buried waste to be a valuable resource. On
the negative side, permanent closure might
increase long term security of the repository.
Relevant policies in France, Switzerland, Canada, Japan, the USA and most other countries
require retrievability for at least 100 years.
The fundamental principles involved in geological disposal are well understood [72, 73].
36
Geological repositories are designed to be
passively safe. This is ensured by the multibarrier principle, in which long term safety
is ensured by the synergy of several engineered and natural barriers. These barriers
prevent or reduce the transport of radionuclides in groundwater, which is generally the
most important transport mechanism. They
also influence the migration of gas, which
will arise in radioactive waste repositories
from chemical and biochemical reactions and
radio­active decay.
In the multibarrier principle, the engineered
barrier system (EBS) comprises the solid
waste matrix and the various containers
and backfills used to immobilize the waste
inside the repository. The natural barrier
(the geosphere) is principally the rock and
ground­water system that isolates the repository and the EBS from the biosphere. The
host rock is the part of the natural barrier
in which the repository is located. Emplacement of the waste in carefully engineered
structures placed at depth in suitable rock is
chosen principally for the long term stability
that the geological environment provides. At
depths of several hundred metres in a tectonically stable environment, processes that
could disrupt the repository are so slow
that the rock and groundwater systems will
remain almost unchanged for hundreds of
thousands of years, and possibly longer [74].
Programmes to dispose of spent fuel are
well advanced in several countries, aided by
political support [75]. Site characterization
and selection for deep geological repositories have been underway since the 1970s.
The two countries closest to licensing and
operation are Finland and Sweden. The general principles and designs of the disposal
facilities are similar (see Fig. 22). In Finland,
originally six sites were considered between
1987 and 1999. A government decision in
2000 selected the Olkiluoto bedrock where
construction of the underground rock characterization facility began in 2004 and will be
extended to the final disposal depth of about
400 metres. Preparing applications for the
construction licence in 2012 and the operating licence in 2018 is the next step. Emplacement of waste for final disposal is scheduled
to start in 2020 [78].
In Sweden, owners of the nuclear power
plants established the Swedish Nuclear Fuel
and Waste Management Company (SKB),
to jointly manage and dispose of radioactive waste. Feasibility studies of eight potential sites were completed in 2001, followed
by site investigations in two municipalities
(Östhammar and Oskarshamn) until 2007.
In 2009, SKB decided to locate the repository at Östhammar (near Forsmark), due to
favourable geological properties. An investment agreement was signed with both volunteer municipalities. Licence application to
construct the repository are to be submitted
in 2010, site works are scheduled to start in
2013, and disposal operations are to commence in 2023 [78].
Similar site characterization, selection and
licensing processes are under way in France
and Japan. In the USA, Yucca Mountain in
Nevada was selected for a final repository,
but this is now put on hold and awaiting
a political decision [79]. All these cases
demonstrate the long processes (e.g.
scientific, political and public participation) of
characterizing, analysing and selecting sites.
In each case, deep geological disposal of high
level waste and used fuel emerges as the best
solution.
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 particularly
political reasons require the establishment
of final disposal facilities. Such facilities are
expected to start operation in 15–20 years
and substantially reduce one of the current
concerns about nuclear power.
FIG. 22. The KBS-3 disposal concept. (Source: Refs [76, 77].) (Symbols used in the figure are explained
as follows: KBS: nuclear fuel safety; H: horizontal; V: vertical.)
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Putting proliferation concerns at the forefront
There is still substantial concern that nuclear
energy could pave the way for the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The source of
such concerns is the possible dual-use of
nuclear material, and fears that the establishment of a nuclear energy programme may
lead to nuclear weapon building. Apart from
this, there are non-State actors that also
pose proliferation risks. An IAEA report,
The International Status and Prospects of
Nuclear Power [80], states that:
“Though civil nuclear power plants in
themselves do not pose an increased proliferation risk, increased nuclear material
in use may increase the risk of diversion
to non-peaceful uses or terrorism.”
Such concerns are justified and considerable
efforts are devoted to tackle them.
The non-proliferation regime backed by the
Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear
Weapons (NPT) and IAEA safeguards
proved successful in limiting the spread of
nuclear weapons. The safeguards regime of
the IAEA is especially efficient and effective in monitoring and safeguarding nuclear
materials and technology from diversion to
non-peaceful purposes (Fig. 23):
“Effective IAEA safeguards remain the
cornerstone of the world’s nuclear nonproliferation regime aimed at stemming
the spread of nuclear weapons and moving towards nuclear disarmament.” [81]
As of mid-2009, 167 States have safeguards
agreements with the IAEA in force, of which
159 are comprehensive safeguards agreements pursuant to the NPT. The States submit nuclear materials, facilities and activities
to the scrutiny of the IAEA’s safeguards
inspectors.
Every country has the right to utilize nuclear
power, as well as the responsibility to do it
right. In the past four years, some 60 Member
States without nuclear energy programmes
have expressed interest in considering the
possible introduction of nuclear power
and have asked for IAEA support. Twelve
FIG. 23. IAEA monitoring and safeguard facilities: (a) video cameras used for remote monitoring of
nuclear sites; and (b) the IAEA Safeguards Analytical Laboratory.
(a)
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38
countries are actively preparing to introduce nuclear power. Increased demand for
assistance has been particularly strong from
developing countries, which seek expert and
impartial advice in analysing their energy
strategy options and which request help in
choosing the best energy mix [82].
Apprehension over the proliferation of
nuclear weapons is likely to persist. The
wider use of nuclear energy and the spread
of nuclear know-how, technology and material may intensify these concerns. There is a
worry about the state of health of the nuclear
non-proliferation regime, which the IAEA
supports through verifying compliance with
relevant legal agreements. Fears are intensifying that the regime is seriously threatened
and needs to be bolstered in many ways [83].
Spent fuel reprocessing (for extracting plutonium and unspent uranium) and uranium
enrichment are the two important stages in
the nuclear fuel cycle that can contribute to
a weapon building programme. These two
key stages in the fuel cycle come under the
safeguards regime of the IAEA, which has
proven monitoring and accounting standards; this means that there is already an
established regime of checks and balances
that is capable of detecting the diversion of
materials from a power programme [84, 85].
Strengthening further the non-proliferation
regime has been proposed by bringing all
reprocessing and enrichment under multinational control, avoiding the use of materials in nuclear energy systems that may be
applied directly to making nuclear weapons,
and considering multinational approaches to
the management and disposal of spent fuel
and radioactive waste [86].
In the medium term, projects such as the
International Project on Innovative Nuclear
Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) and the
Generation IV International Forum (GIF)
aim to develop more efficient nuclear power
systems with proliferation resistance among
the development criteria. INPRO intends to
develop innovative nuclear power systems
by bringing together technology holders and
users under the auspices of the IAEA [87].
GIF is pursuing the development of advanced
nuclear energy systems with increased safety,
improved economics for electricity production and new products, such as hydrogen
for transport applications, reduced nuclear
waste for disposal and increased proliferation resistance [88].
FIG. 23. (cont.)
(b)
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Increasingly favourable public acceptance
Factors affecting the public acceptance of any
technology, including energy technologies, are
classified into two categories: (a) technology
specific (technical features, benefits, costs,
human health risks, environmental impacts
and other characteristics of the given
technology); and (b) the socioeconomic
context in which the given technology is
considered or used. Shifts in both types of
factors have affected the evolution of public
acceptance of nuclear power in recent years.
Among the technology specific factors,
historical and accumulated experience (safe
operation of power plants and other nuclear
installations) has led to improving public
acceptance in most countries. In the broader
socioeconomic context, three factors have
contributed to a reviving interest in nuclear
energy: reducing GHG emissions; enhancing
energy supply security; and improving price
stability.These factors have contributed to an
improved social acceptance of nuclear power.
An assessment of public acceptance of
nuclear energy is usually based on public
opinion surveys. Results of such surveys
should be handled with care, particularly
when trying to compare them over time and
across countries. The reason is that surveys
often differ in scope, coverage, methods
and other important aspects. The key
determinant of the outcome of such surveys
is how the questions are framed and phrased.
Figure 24 presents recent trends or snapshots
of public acceptance of nuclear energy in
countries already using nuclear power and
those without it — of which, some are
seriously considering (re-)introducing it. Since
the number and content of response options
vary across surveys, a simple normalization
procedure was developed to portray all
survey results by a Public Acceptance Index
(PAI) on a scale from 0 (complete rejection)
to 100 (complete approval).
40
Among the nine countries depicted in
Fig. 24(a), public acceptance of nuclear power
has been improving in most countries. The
two exceptions are Spain and Germany (both
phase-out countries) with sharp downturns
in 2008. In contrast, the steady 60+ PAI in
Sweden in recent years may have contributed
to a reversal in the phase out. In Fig. 24(b), in
the three countries that seriously consider
adopting nuclear energy (Egypt, Indonesia
and Thailand), public acceptance appears to
be positive with PAIs slightly or significantly
above the 50% mark.
An increasing number of surveys explore
how the potential contribution to mitigating
climate change affects the public acceptance
of nuclear energy. Results from a few recent
surveys are presented in Fig. 25. Formulations
of both the initial question (i.e. ‘Do you
accept/agree with using nuclear energy?’)
and the climate change question (i.e. about
the perceived benefits of nuclear power
to combat global warming) differ across
countries and surveys.Yet the climate change
benefit of nuclear power seems to be known
and appreciated by much larger shares
of respondents in each country than the
acceptance rates of nuclear power in general.
The difference is around 25 percentage
points in ‘EU-15’ (the 15 EU Member States
as of 1993), ‘EU-27’ (the 27 EU Member
States as of 2009) and Germany, and reaches
30 percentage points in Poland.
Nevertheless, the most useful information
provided by such in-depth surveys is for
designing public information campaigns that
respond to the concerns and ignorance of
people so that they can make an informed
judgment in the subsequent and unavoidable
social debates about nuclear energy.
Informing the public is the first crucial step
in the decision making process that needs to
involve all stakeholder groups.
(a)
FIG. 24. Public acceptance
of nuclear power:
(a) countries with
operating power plants.
(b)
FIG. 24. Public acceptance
of nuclear power:
(b) countries without
operating power plants.
(Source: Ref. [89].)
FIG. 25. Public acceptance of
nuclear power in relation
to climate change.
(Source: Ref. [90].)
Note: The asterisk denotes surveys without comparable questions on climate change advantages. USA: in the same
survey, 37% of the respondents associated nuclear energy with climate change ‘a lot’, 37% ‘a little’ and 24% ‘not
at all’. In the Republic of Korea (ROK) survey, for the question about why nuclear energy is needed, respondents
ranked climate change fourth place after increasing electricity demand, replacing liquefied natural gas and economic
efficiency. The Chinese study did not include the climate change question.
41
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Projections reflect rising expectations
worldwide
The IAEA has published the annual Energy,
Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates
since 1981. This report focuses on the actual
status and future estimates of energy use,
electricity production and nuclear power
generation in all regions of the world for
the near to medium term. The underlying
overall energy projections reconcile recent
global and regional projections made by
national and international energy organizations, development indicators published by
the World Bank and national projections
for many countries. Nuclear energy projections also draw on data in the IAEA’s Power
Reactor Information System (PRIS) [91]. The
estimates are prepared in close collaboration
and consultation with several international,
regional and national organizations, as well
as with international experts dealing with
energy related statistics and projections.
The 2009 projections are based on the following: (1) national projections supplied by
each country for a recent OECD/NEA study;
(2) indicators of development published by
the World Bank in its World Development
Indicators; (3) estimates of energy, electricity
and nuclear power growth continuously carried out by the IAEA in the wake of recent
global and regional projections made by
other international organizations.
The nuclear generating capacity estimates
are derived from a country by country bottom-up approach. They are established by a
group of experts and based upon a review
of nuclear power projects and programmes
in Member States. The low and high estimates reflect contrasting but not extreme
assumptions on the different driving factors
of nuclear power deployment. These factors,
and the ways they might evolve, vary from
country to country. The estimates provide a
plausible range of nuclear capacity growth by
region and worldwide. They are not intended
to be predictive nor to reflect the whole
range of possible futures from the lowest to
the highest feasible.
FIG. 26. Prospects for nuclear power in major world regions: (a) estimates of installed nuclear
capacities; (b) estimates of nuclear electricity generation. (Source: Ref. [92].)
(a)
42
The low case represents expectations about
the future if current trends were to continue
and there were few changes in policies affecting nuclear power other than those already
in the pipeline. This case was explicitly
designed to produce a ‘conservative but plausible’ set of projections. Additionally, the low
case did not automatically assume that targets for nuclear power growth in a particular
country would necessarily be achieved.These
assumptions are relaxed in the high case.
The high case projections are much more
optimistic, but still plausible and technically
feasible. The high case assumes that the current financial and economic crises will be
overcome in the not so distant future and
past rates of economic growth and electricity demand, especially in the Far East (including China, Japan and the Republic of Korea),
would essentially resume. In addition, the
high case assumes the implementation of
policies targeted at mitigating climate change.
Figure 26 presents the most recent IAEA
estimates [92] of the global nuclear generation capacities (Fig. 26(a)) and the electricity
output (Fig. 26(b)) from the corresponding reactor fleet up to 2030. The projections show that the fastest growth rate of
nuclear capacities will be in Asia and are a
major factor in shaping global nuclear energy
prospects.
There are, however, some open questions
concerning the estimates, including whether
the high economic growth rates in large
developing countries will continue; how long
the high fossil fuel prices will persist; what
the architecture and flexibility mechanisms
of the post-Kyoto regime will be; whether
the industry will be able to deliver new reactors on time and on budget; whether public
acceptance will continue to improve.
Balancing the general and region specific issues, and the high/low projections,
nuclear power capacities in the future could
exceed the high estimates if positive factors
strengthen each other. Alternatively, they
could stay below the low projection if some
negative factors coalesce (e.g. collapse of fossil prices, as in the 1980s, poor construction
performance or an accident).
FIG. 26. (cont.)
(b)
43
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48
National perspectives on climate change and
nuclear power
This Annex1 provides short summaries of
how the relationship between climate change
and nuclear power are perceived by various
stakeholder groups in different countries.2
The emerging picture concerning the contexts and perspectives in which these countries look at the climate–nuclear nexus is
diverse.
Brazil is a non-Annex I party to the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate
Change (UFCCC) and has no legal obligations
to reduce its GHG emissions. Its electricity
sector emits a very small amount of CO2
per kW•h generated. Yet climate change is
emerging as an important issue because the
changing hydrological regime makes hydropower a less dependable source of electricity
and a higher share of nuclear power in the
generation mix might be required in a few
decades to guarantee the security of electricity supply.
China still has very fast growth rates in
demand, for energy in general, and for electricity in particular. Climate change considerations are emerging, especially with a view to
the UNFCCC negotiations in Copenhagen,
but the recent rounds of upward revisions of
nuclear energy expansion are also prompted
by the limits of further fast expansion of coal
based generation due to constraints in mining and transport infrastructure.
Italy shut down its nuclear generation
abruptly after the Chernobyl accident but
was contemplating a fresh start for years
until legislation opening the possibility for
building new nuclear plants was passed in
2009.
In Japan, nuclear power has been and will
remain a solid constant in the power sector,
helping the country move towards a low carbon society.
Fears of depleting cheap domestic fossil
sources and high global energy prices and
considerations to reduce CO2 emissions in
the power sector lead to deliberations about
introducing nuclear power in Malaysia.
Electricity demand is growing fast in Thailand
as well, and it is mostly generated from fossil
fuels, hence the intense political and public
discussions about adopting nuclear energy in
a decade or so.
In the United Kingdom and the USA, climate
change mitigation is coupled with supply
security concerns in recent government
policies to boost the contribution of nuclear
power to the national electricity generation
mix.
Interestingly, the importance of permitting
the use of nuclear energy projects and the
recognition of the ensuing Certified Emission
Reductions (CERs) in international mitigation activities under the new UNFCCC post2012 Protocol (unlike in the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation
in the current Kyoto regime) is raised and
discussed in both potential host and investor
countries, according to this small sample of
eight countries.
1 T
he views expressed in this annex do not represent those of the authors’ organizations, the IAEA or its Member
States.
2 The contributions in this Annex are abridged and slightly edited versions of short essays prepared by R. Schaeffer
and A.S. Szklo (Brazil), D. Liu and S. Zhang (China), M.Tavoni (Italy), K. Nagano (Japan), Sabar Md Hashim (Malaysia),
N. Damrongchai (Thailand), M. Grimston (United Kingdom) and C.D. Ferguson (USA).
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Climate change and nuclear power in Brazil:
An unexpected link
A possible link between climate change
and nuclear power in Brazil seems to arise
from a rather unexpected direction: adaptation rather than climate change mitigation.
Recent studies assessed the vulnerability of
the energy system to climate change in Brazil (Lucena et al. [A–1, A–2, A–3]). They show
that, because the availability and reliability of
renewable sources very much depend on climatic conditions — which can vary due to
global climate change (GCC) — and because
of the country’s heavy reliance on renewable sources, particularly hydropower, Brazil seems to be highly vulnerable to climate
change. This vulnerability mainly results from
reduced hydroelectricity production, but also
from increased electricity demand due to an
adaptation to higher temperatures.
These studies have focused on the impacts of
GCC on the Brazilian energy sector, including hydropower production, natural gas fired
thermoelectric production, wind power
potential and electricity demand. The operation of the Brazilian hydropower system was
simulated for the 2025–2100 time series of
water flow at each plant, derived from the
climatic simulations for temperature and
precipitation. Results of the aggregate projected impacts show that the firm power of
the country’s hydroelectric generation system would fall by about 30% by 2035 [A–3].
Increasing temperatures may also affect the
demand for electricity because of higher
use and lower efficiency of air conditioning. Due solely to the higher temperatures
projected for 2035, electricity demand of the
residential and service sector is estimated to
increase by 6% and 5%, respectively, in the
worst case scenario compared to a scenario
without GCC [A–1].
The most relevant impact is the decline
in hydroelectric reliability. In planning the
expansion of the electric system, the reliability of a source is of extreme importance. A
hydroelectric based system must be dimensioned (or complemented by other sources)
to guarantee supply in the worst hydrological
50
condition. Therefore, firm power is a very
relevant variable in Brazil.
The studies mentioned also estimate the
extra capacity that would have to be installed
by 2035 to prevent system failure due to
the projected lack of reliability of hydroelectricity and other considered impacts. The
Brazilian power system would have to be
dimensioned to generate additional 150–160
TW•h/year by 2035, just to cover the 30%
loss in firm power from hydroelectricity
due to GCC [A–3]. The additional sources
include natural gas fired power plants, higher
efficiency sugarcane bagasse burning technologies, wind power, nuclear (some 6.1 GW
of extra capacity by 2035 in the worst GCC
scenario) and coal. The required capital
investments amount to about $50 billion by
2035, representing almost the equivalent of
10 years of capital expenditures in expanding the country’s power generation system,
according to Brazil’s long term energy plan
[A–4], while the variable operational and fuel
costs would depend on the extent to which
the hydrological scenario approaches the
worst case scenario.
The Brazilian energy sector relies heavily
on renewable energy sources with a 45%
share in the total primary energy supply. In
the power sector, hydroelectricity accounted
for 80%, with natural gas (7%), biomass (5%),
oil (3%), nuclear (3%) and coal (2%) power
plants providing the rest in 2008 [A–5]. Bioenergy is becoming increasingly important,
and wind power potential is also significant.
Nuclear energy is of relatively low importance in Brazil, with an installed capacity of
2000 MW compared to the country’s total
installed capacity of 104 000 MW as of
July 2009. The deployment of this technology started in 1971 (commercial operation
commenced in 1985) and its role is likely
to increase in the future. A second unit was
connected to the grid in 2000. The construction of a third plant was suspended for more
than two decades but after a long debate, a
decision was finally taken by the Government
in 2009 in favour of its completion.The reference scenario in the most recent official long
term energy plan includes 5345 MW additional nuclear capacity by 2030 [A–4], still a
small fraction of the forecast total generation
capacity, as shown in Fig. A–1. A related goal
is to produce domestically 100% of the fuel
needed for the country’s nuclear reactors by
2014.
In October 2008, the Brazilian Government
announced plans to invest $212 billion to
increase the total nuclear power capacity to
60 000 MW over the next 50 years. This fact
indicates the will of the current Government
to promote the wider use of nuclear and to
give priority to the resumption of the country’s nuclear programme. However, most Brazilian experts doubt that this target is achievable or even represents a real official plan
[A–6]. Nevertheless, none of these new plans
have ever been related to domestic efforts to
mitigate carbon emissions (which have been
mostly concentrated on curbing deforestation in the Amazon region), but with strategic and technological aspects related to the
full domain of the nuclear technology, plus
environmental problems related to licensing
new hydroelectric plants, that also leads to
a higher reliance on fossil fuels (natural gas,
oil and coal).
In sum, although nuclear energy may be in a
process of revival in Brazil, the reasons for
that revival have not, so far, been directly
linked to climate change mitigation concerns.
Indirectly, however, because of the likely vulnerability of the country’s power sector to
climate change itself, nuclear energy may be
seen by some, in the future, as a technological path to be further pursued in Brazil not
for mitigating the relatively low carbon emissions from energy use in the country, but as
part of a broader adaptation strategy to climate change.
FIG. A–1. Forecast installed electricity generation capacity in Brazil’s official long term energy plan
(in GW) [A–4].
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Nuclear power development and its nexus with
climate change in China
China and other developing countries agreed
to take appropriate mitigation actions along
with the Bali roadmap. This shows that no
matter what climate regime the international community achieves, China’s domestic mitigation actions will be put on the
agenda [A–7]. Developing nuclear power
will be one of the most important actions
to combat climate change, as expressed in
the National Climate Change Programme
[A–8] and other official documents. It is
emphasized that all measures and actions in
response to climate change (mitigation and
adaptation) are integrated in the national
sustainable development strategies.
In 2009, the National Development and
Reform Commission (NDRC) of China
issued the official file, China’s Position on
the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference [A–9]. It states that economic growth,
poverty eradication and climate protection
should be considered in a holistic and integrated manner so as to reach a win-win
solution and to assist developing countries
to secure their right to development. In this
context, decisions about nuclear power will
be made by considering many other factors,
such as the current domestic situation concerning energy security, energy mix diversification, energy related heavy transport and
environmental pollution. The development
of nuclear power in China will accelerate
continuously, which will certainly contribute
to the mitigation of climate change.
Nuclear power plants are technology intensive and characterized by large upfront capital costs, and a long construction time and
payback period, which means huge investment risk and need for capacity building
and technology collaboration and transfer.
Technology development and transfer from
developed to developing countries is always
a hot topic in climate negotiations. If institutional arrangements, financial and technology transfer mechanisms, and assessment
and monitoring can be established for the
post-2012 regime, it will be good news
52
for nuclear power development in China,
because nuclear energy could be incorporated into the global efforts to combat climate change in the form of an innovative
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) as
described in the following discussion.
Despite the global economic recession,
nuclear power development in China does
not seem to slow down relative to the acceleration in the 11th Five-year Plan. The actual
scale of nuclear power planning in China is
expected to exceed the original plan set in
2007, i.e. 40 GW in operation and 18 GW
under construction in 2020. The targets for
2020 might be revised to 60, 70 or even
84 GW, according to various sources. The
latest news from the National Energy Administration of China [A–10] is that the plan
for 2020 will be adjusted to make nuclear
power about 5% of the generation mix, but
the new capacity objective is not determined
yet by the State Council. The total capacity
of the nuclear power projects, including
those under construction and approved by
the NDRC, is already more than 47 GW, all
of which is expected to generate electricity
by 2015. In 2008, pre-project works in three
inland provinces (Hunan, Hubei and Jiangxi)
were approved by NDRC, which means that
the nuclear power distribution in China has
expanded from coastal to inland regions.
The provinces, including Sichuan, Henan and
Gansu have proposals to develop nuclear
power, and the number of proposed nuclear
power plant units is over 100 beyond those
mentioned.
Nuclear power can realize its potential for
reducing CO2 emissions only if it is safe and
economically acceptable. With the increasing number of nuclear power units, risk
management will be a key factor for shaping the nuclear future, including safe operation, spent fuel and nuclear proliferation.
The efforts to internalize the environmental
costs of fossil fuel use (via energy or emission tax) also will improve the economics
and stimulate the expansion of nuclear in
the long term in China. The possible binding
agreements for CO2 mitigation will improve
the competitiveness of nuclear power plants
compared to other generation sources.
Currently Annex-I Parties refrain from
using nuclear facilities in the CDM. However, nuclear power is a vital technology to
achieve the long term global GHGs reduction target of at least 50% by 2050, especially
by using proven new generation technology
with inherent safety. Therefore, diffusion of
these technologies should be promoted by
making them eligible under flexibility mechanisms, such as the CDM. Meanwhile, it is
necessary to ensure the safety, reliability and
environmental integrity of these projects.
Innovative nuclear CDMs might involve
some of the following elements:
(1)A nuclear specific institutional arrangement, methodological approach, project
approval and monitoring, as well as Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) issuance procedures shall be established
and adopted under the UNFCCC for
nuclear CDM projects.
(2)Project participation requirements:
Party of Kyoto Protocol and Member
Party of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
(3)Given the large scale and nuclear nature
of the project category, the baseline
methodology and additionality, project
leakage emissions, on-site monitoring
and CER calculation should be defined
appropriately:
(i)Baseline may not be project based,
but could be technology based
instead.
(ii)Existing nuclear power in developing countries does not mean that
it is financially competitive and
common practice in the electricity
market, but shows that it is really
restricted by technology and financing availability, even with governmental and social support. In this
sense, nuclear power as a whole is
really additional under CDM. Additionality for nuclear power projects
should not be demonstrated on a
project by project basis.
(iii)The contribution of nuclear power
to climate change mitigation may be
attributed mainly to its future development under the nuclear CDM
regime, if applicable, regardless of
how it would have been planned by
the host countries (additionality).
(iv)Considering energy consumed in
the nuclear fuel treatment process,
the upstream and downstream leakage emissions might be taken into
account fairly by using default values, if applicable.
(v)On-site validation and verification
should be implemented under the
bilateral agreement signed between
the Designated Operational Entity
and the host project owner, in line
with the rules and guidelines set out
by the CDM Executive Board.
(vi)An alternative and conservative
approach may be applied to determine the CERs from nuclear CDM
project activity, by which the monitored CO2 emission reductions
would be discounted by multiplying a percentage factor which
reflects the historical baseline share
of nuclear electricity in the whole
electricity generation mix of the
host country.
(4)Politically, the extent to which nuclear
power is involved in the future CDM
regime will be a critical issue closely
linked with the outcome of the UNFCCC
negotiations about the post-2012 regime.
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Will climate policies foster a revival of nuclear
power generation in Italy?
In a recent survey of European attitudes
towards climate change, 40% of Italians put it
on the top of the list of problems facing the
world [A–11]. This value is below the European average (50%) but demonstrates how
important the global warming challenge is perceived to be. Indeed, in the same report, 68%
of Italians say they feel this is a very serious
problem. The position of the Government has
been rather ambiguous: threatening to veto the
adoption of the European Union climate targets in 2008, but in 2009 hosting the G8 Summit where developed countries agreed to keep
the global temperature increase below 2°C.
The Italian electricity sector is characterized
by rather strong imbalances (see Fig. A–2). Natural gas and oil make up for about 60% of total
power generation, well above the European
average of 25%, to compensate for the low
contribution of coal and the absence of nuclear.
Hydroelectric and geothermal sources play an
important role as well [A–12]. Due to the low
diversification and heavy reliance on imported
fuels, Italy has among the highest prices of electricity in the world, with an average residential
price 40% higher than in the European Union.
In addition, Italy relies heavily on fossil imports
for non-electric energy consumption.
These structural weaknesses in the energy
supply are somewhat compensated by the
low national energy intensity of the economy,
characterized by a relatively high efficiency
and a small share of energy intensive industries. Energy and electricity demand has been
increasing at 1.3% and 2.1% per year, respectively, in the period 2000–2005. GHG emissions have also been growing and are now
roughly 11% higher than in 1990, although the
Kyoto Protocol requires Italy to reduce its
GHG emissions by 6.5% compared to 1990
levels by 2012, and further emission cuts are
envisaged under the European Union climate
objectives for 2020.
In the context of volatile energy prices, concerns over energy security and impending climate change mitigation policies, Italy faces a
54
challenge and an opportunity to restructure its
energy sector to make it more efficient, less
dependent on imports and less carbon intensive. Various demand and supply side options
might help meeting such criteria, and nuclear
power generation is certainly among the possible candidates.
Italy banned nuclear power as a result of a referendum in 1987, shortly after the Chernobyl
accident, incurring a severe economic penalty.
However, the high fossil fuel prices of recent
years and the new concerns over the adverse
consequences of global warming have somewhat modified the public perception about
nuclear electricity. In recent polls, Italians seem
to be more favourable to its reintroduction,
although preferences hardly score above 50%
and are lower for hosting a plant in one’s own
region [A–13].
The incumbent Government has prioritized
nuclear in its energy plans, with a stated long
term goal of 25% in the electricity generation
mix. This would require the deployment of up
to 10 reactors over the next 20 years. Legislation was time consuming due to concerns
over the budget coverage and the proposed
government control over the to-be-created
safety and regulatory agency. The bill approved
in July 2009 is meant to ensure the simplification of the licensing process, the definition of
local economic compensation, site characteristics, etc. Within six months, the Government
is required to define the rules for site selection
and waste management.
Such a provision is expected to facilitate the
investments in the sector, but the final word is
obviously left to the manufacturers and investors. The national industrial capacity, though
weakened by the ban, can still count on a series
of actors, such as Ansaldo Nucleare for engineering, Mangiarotti Nuclear for the manufacturing, SOGIN for decommissioning, Nucleco
for waste management and ENEL for power
generation. ENEL, through acquisitions in Spain
and Eastern Europe, now generates 10% of its
electricity from nuclear plants and participates
in the construction of the Flamanville 3 reactor to acquire skills in the European Pressurized Reactor technology. However, ENEL’s top
executive recently stated that its company’s
commitment to build four reactors in Italy is
conditional on having a guaranteed minimum
sale price of electricity [A–14].
Concerning the role of climate change policies,
several considerations emerge. The nuclear
revival cannot help meeting the 2012 reduction targets of 100 Mt CO2-eq. and chances
of a significant deployment by 2020 are slim.
The carbon intensity of the electricity sector
is already quite low, thus the replacement of
existing plants with nuclear ones would require
a significant carbon price to be viable. Nuclear
would also need to compete with renewables and natural gas. Without public support,
investors might not embark upon the sizeable
investments needed for a sufficiently large
nuclear programme.
Looking beyond 2020 provides a rosier picture
for nuclear energy. The European Union has
committed itself to the long term objective of
climate stabilization, so more stringent climate
policies will probably follow. Italy’s extremely
high dependency on energy imports will be
exacerbated in the likely case that fossil fuel
prices rise. In addition, the possibility to electrify the transport sector and a greater role in
the residential final use could lead electricity
to grow significantly more rapidly than anticipated. Against this background, the nuclear
option might eventually become a decisively
attractive option. The next few years will be
crucial in preparing a nuclear revival, but might
disappoint those who expect a rapid turnaround in the way electricity is generated in Italy.
FIG. A–2. Net electricity generation mix and imports in 2007. The figures on top of the bars show the
electricity prices charged to medium size households for the same year.
(Source of data: Eurostat.)
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Climate change and nuclear energy in Japan
Climate change is recognized as an important policy issue in Japan with some notably
distinctive psychological motives shared by
the public. Extraordinary weather phenomena observed all over the country in recent
years, such as sporadic heavy rainfalls causing unexpected, and occasionally fatal, flooding or later and lesser drift ice from the Sea
of Okhotsk, have steadily raised fears about
global climatic change as their cause. Moreover, the Japanese public has been proud of
being the leading country in the field of environment friendly technology development
as well as preservation of natural beauties,
which naturally leads to the wish that Japan
should maintain the leading position in international climate policy negotiation, symbolized by the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC
with the name of its ancient capital city, the
venue of COP-3 in 1997.
The former Japanese Prime Minister, Taro
Aso, declared in a press conference on
10 June 2009, that Japan’s medium term
target of carbon emission is “a 15% reduction from the 2005 level” by 2020 [A–15].
The target is an outcome of a nationwide
discussion in which an advisory committee
appointed directly by former Prime Minister
Aso presented six GHG emissions pathways
ranging from 4% to 30% reduction relative
to the 2005 level, as shown in Fig. A–3. Public
comments on the six options were polarized:
the majority, including the industrial sectors,
argued for the least stringent reduction (4%
from 2005 level); while environmental NGOs
argued for the most aggressive emission cut
(30% from 2005 level). The Prime Minister’s
Office also conducted a special public opinion poll, in which about half of the responses
supported the middle course (14% from
2005 level). The final decision is close to this
poll result (15% from 2005 level). Its main
drivers include a vigorous introduction of
renewable energy sources, drastic measures
in transport (including hybrid cars) and buildings (energy efficiency standards). The long
term indicative target is 60–80% reduction by
2050 as a pursuit for a ‘low carbon society’.
56
Contrary to these ambitious target settings,
actual GHG emissions in Japan in Fiscal Year
(FY) 2007 reached 1.374 Gt CO2-eq., a 2.4%
increase from the previous year. This increase
was largely due to the temporary shutdown
of all seven units of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa
Nuclear Power Station (8.212 GW, 17% of
the total Japanese nuclear reactor fleet of
49.47 GW) for inspection after a major earthquake in July 2007. This resulted in an average
availability factor of 60.7%. If the factor had
been as high as 84.2% recorded in FY1998,
the emission level of FY2007 would have been
only 0.6% above FY2006 [A–16]. This clearly
illustrates the importance of nuclear power
in significantly reducing national GHG emissions. After thorough and extensive efforts,
Unit 7 was officially admitted for restart in
July 2009, followed by Unit 6 in August 2009.
As for the medium and long term energy supply and demand profile for Japan, the Steering Committee for Energy Policy published
an outlook up to the year 2030 [A–17]. In
the three cases analysed, nuclear power contribution was assumed uniformly to expand
by nine reactor units to reach a total capacity of 61.5 GW, generating some 440 TW•h
in 2030. This study implies that Japan should
first ensure the stable operation of existing
nuclear capacities, including the restart of all
seven units of Kashiwazaki, smooth retirement and replacement of aged units, and further additions to reach the capacity targets
in the outlook. Only after accomplishing all of
these can any larger contribution of nuclear
power be considered.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the competent authority to promote energy policy, published the results of
an Advisory Committee’s discussion in Policy
Enhancement Measures for Nuclear Power
Promotion, in June 2009. The basic philosophy is clearly stated in the preamble:
“Nuclear power is a quasi-domestic
energy source superior in supply stability
and economics. … Without promoting
nuclear power, it will be virtually impossible to ensure stable energy supply or
to address global environmental issues.”
[A–18]
The Advisory Committee also produced a
separate report focusing on the importance
of international cooperation, which maintains:
“[I]ntroduction and expansion of nuclear
power generation, which does not emit
CO2 during its generation process, lead
to abatement and reduction of global
GHG, including CO2, emissions due to
growing energy consumption. Thus, contribution to introducing and expanding
nuclear power means a contribution to
the global environment.” [A–19]
Experts and leaders have been arguing about
the eligibility of nuclear energy related
projects in the Kyoto flexibility mechanisms,
namely, the Clean Development Mechanism
(CDM). Responding to the call from the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission, the Forum
for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA)
decided at its 10th Coordinator Meeting in
March 2009 that its member States interested in introducing nuclear power generation would conduct quantitative case studies to assess the economic merits, certified
emission reductions of greenhouse gases, etc.
of nuclear power projects, in order to support the inclusion of nuclear energy as CDM
in the agenda of COP15 [A–20]. Seven countries agreed to carry out case studies.
In summary, it appears from these policy
debates and documents that nuclear power
does and will serve as the pillar of low
carbon energy supply in Japan. While such
political will is firm, there still remain issues
and problems ahead, to maintain existing
generating stocks, smooth retirement and
replacement, and new installation. By solving
these one by one, Japan intends to ensure
its medium and long term emission reduction targets, and further the global society
through active international cooperation in
the area of nuclear power development.
FIG. A–3. The six options and the decision for Japan’s mid-term (2020) GHG emission reduction
targets [A–15].
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Mitigating climate change: Malaysia’s national
perspective amid growing nuclear energy appeal
Malaysia has become increasingly concerned
about the possible impacts of climate change.
It experienced an unusually large flood in
Johore in 2006, and other weather anomalies over the past few years. Hence, there
are concerns about its possibly increasing vulnerability to extreme climate events,
such as typhoons, droughts and floods. Mean
annual temperature in Southeast Asia has
increased by 0.1–0.3°C per decade over the
last 50 years. Malaysia’s national projections
show that by 2050, the country is going to be
hotter with a mean annual temperature rise
of up to 1.5°C. More extreme precipitation
patterns are also expected: intense rainfall in
the wet period and a lack of rainfall in the
dry period, leading to higher high flows with
more severe floods, and lower low flows
causing longer droughts. The expected sea
level rise of 15–95 cm over a 100 year period
is a concern in coastal areas [A–21].
As a non-Annex-I State Party to the
UNFCCC, Malaysia is not bound by specific
targets for GHG emissions. Yet the country
is committed under the UNFCCC to shape
national strategies which mitigate climate
change. (Negotiations about crediting mechanisms for Nationally Appropriate Mitigation
Actions by Non-Annex-I countries are under
way.) Climate change mitigation and management is addressed by the Prime Minister’s
Cabinet Committee on Climate Change to
encourage action on climate change across
ministries. Sustainable utilization of energy is
being given increasing attention and policies
also aim to ensure affordability and energy
security. The country plans to depart completely from subsidies, as they have hampered
efficiency improvements throughout the
energy system.
Malaysia’s total CO2 emission was 177.5 Mt
in 2004 (which more than triples the 1990
total of 55.3 Mt). In the electricity sector, coal
takes up approximately 29% of the generation mix with natural gas and hydro accounting for 64% and 7%, respectively (overall CO2
intensity is about 500 g CO2/kW•h).
58
Looking at the horizon of 2030, final energy
demand from 2005 to 2030 is projected to
grow at an average rate of 3.1%/year. Historically, 1% increase in gross domestic product
(GDP) has been accompanied by 1.2–1.5%
growth in energy demand (and associated
GHG emission). Based on energy forecasts, the national electricity generation is
expected to grow to around 158 TW•h by
2020 and 184 TW•h by 2025, compared to
only 104 TW•h in 2006. In terms of emissions, the power sector shall account for
almost 50% of it, while the transport and
industry sectors contribute 28% and 20%,
respectively (see Fig. A–4) [A–22].
Malaysia aspires to become a developed
country by 2020. Energy is part of wealth
creation as it creates jobs, allows crossindustry development and yields multiskilled
workers with a rich knowledge base. Malaysia
has been identifying options to diversify its
energy sources so that it would not be too
dependent on the depleting gas resources
and imports of coal in its energy mix. In this
respect, prudent use of domestic natural gas,
LNG, nuclear and renewable energy sources
look likely to remain the focal points of 21st
century energy strategies. Large scale renewable energy is not yet commercially viable
and practically feasible, because such energy
sources have not yet reached technological
maturity. Nuclear energy, therefore, presents
itself as an attractive option, as shown by the
excellent economic and energy results of
countries including France and the Republic
of Korea.
In September 2008, the Minister of Energy,
Water and Communications announced that
the Government would pursue domestic
nuclear energy generation as a response to
high global energy prices [A–23]. The Minister indicated that the Government was left
with no choice but to use nuclear energy,
since it was the better alternative to generate
electricity by 2023 as supplies of fossil fuel
would eventually run out. In June 2009, the
Government agreed to allow nuclear energy
to become an option to power its energy
needs for the decades after 2020. The Government has considered the supply side constraints of other options based on resource
endowment, technology maturity and economics. Subsequently, the Cabinet approved
the setting up of a Steering Committee on
Nuclear Power Development [A–24].
Nuclear seems to be a viable long term
option, as it is very much green technology,
clean, environmental and climate friendly, and
features cutting edge technology — and, thus,
wealth creation. The Government’s advocacy
is also because of total agreement with the
utilization of nuclear energy for peace and
non-proliferation activities.
A few studies have assessed nuclear energy
in Malaysia. A 2008 study on the evaluation
of sustainable energy strategies for addressing climate change issues has shown that
Malaysia could reduce CO2 emissions in the
power sector by 22%, by adopting nuclear
power by 2020 as compared to a baseline case of non-nuclear scenario [A–25].
Another study has revealed that Malaysia
could avoid about 4.9 Mt CO2 emissions per
year per 1000 MW nuclear reactor commissioned — which would qualify Malaysia for
carbon emission reduction (CER) certificates [A–26]. However, nuclear is yet to be
included in the CDM instrument. The MNA,
other ministries (notably NRE), agencies and
energy policy makers must reconcile with
each other in order to include nuclear as
part of CDM instruments.
Notwithstanding some of these technicalities, nuclear energy remains an attractive
focal point for energy planners and economists in Malaysia. The challenge, therefore, is
to build the consensus on the necessity of
making nuclear energy as part of — and a
permanent feature of — the national energy
supply mix in years to come.
FIG. A–4. Projected CO2 emissions by sector in Malaysia (up to 2030) [A–23].
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Climate change and nuclear power in Thailand:
Balancing the driving forces
The National Economic and Social Advisory
Council of Thailand, an impartial organization
set up under the Thai Constitution to reflect
on economic and social problems and provide advice to the cabinet, completed a study
in 2008 about five ‘emerging challenges’ for
the country [A–27]. The five topics that need
urgent attention and preparedness include
nuclear power and global warming. According to the report, climate change might trigger large scale migration of the population
to safer areas and cause negative impacts
for agriculture (increasing costs), occupation
and lifestyle, as well as conflicts over limited
and restricted resources. The study strongly
urges the promotion of new non-fossil fuel
sources and technologies for power generation as one measure to mitigate GHG
emissions.
The report also revisited the issue of nuclear
power after several aborted projects during
the past 30 years. The key issues are safety
from accident, management of radioactive
waste (including spent fuel), the distrust in
Thai operational capability and work culture
to ensure the safe construction and operation of such plants, the lack of regulatory
structure and competent human resources,
budget and political will. Recommendations
from the Council to the cabinet reflect the
state of the debate but do not include a concrete suggestion for building nuclear power
plants.
The National Strategic Plan on Climate
Change Preparedness (2008–2012) [A–28],
laid out six strategies to combat climate
change through concerted efforts among different ministries.The first measure under the
mitigation strategy is to decrease emissions
from the energy sector. According to the
plan, nuclear power is one of the alternative
energies that “does not release greenhouse
gas” and should be supported among other
forms of alternative energy, including hydropower, wind and solar.The Ministry of Energy
is designated to implement this measure,
with the Ministry of Science and Technology
60
(MOST) given the regulatory and supporting
role.
Later in 2008, MOST hosted a four-month
public congress on global warming. Many
public forums were held in different regions
of the country to discuss the impact of global
warming and the role of science and technology in mitigating and adapting to the impacts.
The proceedings addresses the urgency of
the problem and presents a realistic analysis
of the country’s GHG emissions and viable
alternative energy sources [A–29].
According to the proceedings, roughly 90%
of current electricity is generated from fossil
fuels such as lignite, imported coal and natural gas. Electricity demand is increasing by
5% annually, and without a major shift in fuel
sources, GHG emissions will increase. All
alternative fuels have their limitations: biofuels consume large arable land areas, solar
energy is clean but still costly and has limited
production capacity, and clean coal technology with carbon capture and storage (CCS)
is expensive, not yet ready and carries an efficiency penalty. Nuclear power is shown to be
the most environmental friendly. The MOST
proceedings [A–29] states that nuclear
energy could help mitigate global warming
and enhance energy security even though it
will not become the major source of fuel for
electricity generation by the planned operation year of 2020.The proceedings concludes
by recommending that the Government initiate megaprojects in large scale alternative
energy technology development, including
the strengthening of nuclear power capacity.
The Thailand Power Development Plan
(PDP) 2007 [A–30] originally proposed
4000 MW nuclear power for consideration
among other (smaller scale) coal fired, gas
fired combined cycle and gas turbine power
plants. The original plan was approved by
the Cabinet in 2007, depicting a scenario
in which natural gas remains the major fuel
source for power generation, but by 2020,
nuclear power will start to contribute. The
Plan was later revised giving nuclear power’s
contribution 2000 MW or 5% of total power
generation by 2021 (Fig. A–5).
A formal policy decision is yet to be made
on actual nuclear construction, nevertheless, the Government’s keen interest in
nuclear power can be attributed largely
to concerns in energy supply security. An
alternative scenario shows that imported
power could expand to as much as 28% of
the country’s electricity generation by 2021.
Since the announcement of the PDP 2007,
nuclear power was put on the spot after
many quiet years and has become a target
of public attention and debate. At the same
time, climate change has increasingly become
another public concern — however, the connection between the two remains dubious in
the eye of the public.
The public view of nuclear power in Thailand
is mixed, and the view on nuclear–climate
linkage is unclear due to opposing arguments
and conflicting information. The debate is
largely about safety issues, where discussions
tend to become emotional, particularly when
environmental NGOs are involved. The
opposition usually claims that nuclear power
is not carbon free considering the energy
expended (and, therefore, GHG emitted)
during plant construction and the fuel cycle.
Many groups point to the availability of nonnuclear alternative energy sources and the
increase of energy efficiency as the ultimate
solution to global warming.
In summary, Thailand remains delicately balanced between the pros and cons of nuclear
power, and the current Government has
not come out firmly embracing the idea of
Thailand’s first nuclear power plant. Without
strong implications of the UNFCCC negotiations for the post-2012 agreement, the prospects for nuclear power in climate change
mitigation is not completely clear. In a wider
context, any further domestic movement
towards the adoption of nuclear power in
Thailand will come down to balancing three
key driving forces: energy security, international competitiveness (due to energy prices)
and climate change mitigation.
FIG. A–5. Recommended plan for energy generation by different fuel types in the PDP 2007 [A–30].
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Climate change and nuclear power in the
United Kingdom: Clearing the path
By mid-2008, the antinuclear tone of government and opposition statements on nuclear
energy which had characterized the British
scene for two decades had been replaced
by a recognition that nuclear new build was
an increasingly attractive option for addressing problems of high energy prices, growing
dependence on imports and growing GHG
emissions. The UK’s indigenous reserves
of gas were running short, global energy
prices were high and the UK’s record on
carbon dioxide emissions, impressive during
the 1990s, had stalled as the use of coal for
electricity production had grown. The 2008
Nuclear Power White Paper [A–31] stated
that the Government had concluded that
nuclear should have a role to play in the generation of electricity and the Conservative
opposition had confirmed that it would not
undermine any investment in new nuclear
build should it come into power in 2010.
However, a number of obstacles stood in
the way: the capacity of the licensing authority (the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate),
questions over the planning and regulatory
regime, siting issues and raising the finance
for the programme. 2008 and 2009 have seen
progress in these areas as the UK moves
towards the first planning applications for
new nuclear stations, which are expected in
2012.
Within Government, the main development was the creation of the Department
of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in
October 2008, bringing together energy
policy and climate change mitigation policy.
Its creation:
“reflects the fact that climate change and
energy policies are inextricably linked —
two thirds of our emissions come from
the energy we use. Decisions in one field
cannot be made without considering the
impacts in the other” [A-32].
The three overall objectives for the new
Department are: (1) ensuring Britain’s energy
is secure, affordable and efficient;(2) bringing
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about the transition to a low-carbon Britain;
(3) achieving an international agreement on
climate change at Copenhagen in December
2009.
One of the new Department’s major
initiatives was the announcement in April
2009 of the UK’s first set of carbon budgets,
claimed to be the first country in the world
to do so. These budgets seek to set the
limits on UK emissions for each of three
five-year periods (until 2022), in order to
remain on course for the Government’s
long term target of an 80% reduction by
2050. The proposed levels represent a 22%
reduction in GHG emissions below 1990
levels for the first budget (2008–2012), over
28% for the second period (2013–2017), and
over 34% for the third period (2018–2022).
The Government announced its intention
to achieve these targets through domestic
effort aside from the EU ETS.
The new Secretary of State, E. Miliband, set
out the Department’s approach in the following newspaper article in April 2009:
“As well as improving energy efficiency,
we need to pursue the trinity of lowcarbon technologies: renewables, nuclear
and clean fossil fuels. On renewables, we
are already the country with the largest
offshore wind generation in the world.
More capacity is being built. On nuclear,
energy companies, not taxpayers, should
pay the costs of clean-up — and that’s
now in legislation. But with safeguards
on cost and safety in place, I believe, like
many others seeing the threat of climate
change and the need for a solid base of
low-carbon power, that we should support new nuclear energy. And the lowcarbon power that I believe to be the
most important still to be developed is
clean coal.” [A–33]
Some 40 consultations were carried out during the year on a range of aspects of new
build and waste management policy, including Justification and Strategic Site Assessment
to determine where new stations should be
built. Eleven sites were announced as suitable
for the first wave of new build, nine of which
currently host nuclear stations (operating or
decommissioned). A number of bidders for
the sites came forward.
S. Tindale (former Executive Director of
Greenpeace) and C. Goodall, a Green Party
parliamentary candidate, argued that a new
nuclear programme was essential to address
climate change [A–35]. Public support for
nuclear energy also continues to grow.
On the industrial side, the major development was the purchase by Électricité de
France (EdF) of British Energy, the UK’s main
nuclear generating company, with a minority stake being taken by Centrica (which
trades as British Gas). EdF stated its intention of investing some £22 billion in four new
nuclear reactors, assuming a business case
can be made. Other consortia are coming
forward with similar plans. However, EdF has
stated that new build may not be economically viable without government underpinning of carbon prices.
One key issue remains the timing of a new
build programme (see Fig. A–6). Even if
the existing AGR stations receive lifetime
extension, it would take a new build
programme delivering some 1 GW of new
capacity per year for eight years, starting in
2018 to maintain nuclear capacity at present
levels, themselves quite a way below the peak
achieved in the late 1990s. Any significant
delay would open up a gap in nuclear
output which would inevitably be filled by
other sources, altering the commercial
climate in which new build would operate.
Furthermore, 1 GW of nuclear capacity
generates some 8 TW•h/year, assuming
a load factor of some 90%. Were 8 GW
nuclear new build to be forgone, replaced
by a mixture of coal and gas, carbon dioxide
emissions would be some 45 Mt (about 8%)
higher. This would severely undermine the
UK’s GHG mitigation strategy.
The stance of the environmental movement
remains broadly antinuclear, with Greenpeace, for example, saying “a new generation
of nuclear reactors simply won’t deliver the
urgent emissions cuts needed to tackle climate change” [A–34]. However, a number
of high profile environmentalists, including
FIG. A–6. United Kingdom nuclear generating capacity under four scenarios.
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US action on climate change and nuclear power
In early 2009, the US Global Change Research
Program finished an updated assessment of
the impacts of climate change on the USA
[A–36]. The report concludes that impacts
of climate change can already be observed,
including:
“… increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly
retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost,
lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the ocean and on
lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and
alterations in river flows.” ([A–36] p. 27).
Climate change is forecast to increasingly
affect the water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, health sectors, coastal
areas and the survival of species, with implications for society. J.P. Holdren, Assistant to
the President for Science and Technology and
Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said:
“It tells us why remedial action is needed
sooner rather than later, as well as showing why that action must include both
global emissions reductions to reduce
the extent of climate change and local
adaptation measures to reduce the damage from the changes that are no longer
avoidable.” [A–37]
Americans are showing stronger support for
US action on countering climate change and
using nuclear power. A June 2009 Washington Post–ABC News poll found that 62% of
Americans polled favour more government
regulation in controlling GHG emissions,
but indicated that support for a cap-andtrade system falls to only 44% when those
polled believed that their monthly electricity
bills could rise by $25 or more. Nonetheless, a majority supports having the USA take
more action, even if other countries do less.
A March 2009 Gallup Poll found that 59%
of Americans favour using nuclear power
to generate electricity in the USA and 27%
strongly favour this energy source.This latter
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result shows a significant surge upward from
22% strong support in Gallup’s previous 2007
poll.
This convergence of scientific findings and
public opinion has occurred in a political
environment that has become much more
conducive to US action on climate change.
The 2008 elections brought about a change
in the administration’s position regarding
climate change in the context of campaign
promises to pass legislation to reduce US
GHG emissions. However, there are no clear
signals about the role of nuclear power in
this regard. Three recent policy issues will
influence the future trajectory of nuclear
power in the USA: (1) legislation on controlling GHG emissions; (2) federal loan
guarantees for nuclear power plants; and
(3) nuclear waste management.
On 26 June 2009, the US House of Representatives narrowly passed the first ever bill
to regulate GHG emissions. This bill seeks to
reduce GHG emissions to 17% below 2005
levels by 2020 and 83% below by 2050. The
bill, if passed by the Senate and signed into
law by President Obama, would enact a capand-trade system that would begin in 2012.
The House version would initially give away
most of the emission allowances and then,
over time, increase the price tag on emission purchases. The projected initial price
will be about $13/t CO2). This price may not
be enough to level the economic playing field
between nuclear and coal fired power plants.
According to the May 2009 updated report
of the MIT nuclear power study group, a
minimum price of $25/t CO2 may be needed
[A–38].
It is likely that the proposed emissions trading scheme would have little or no effect on
the nuclear power plants that could begin
construction next decade because of the
long lead time for licensing, assessing the
environmental impact, securing financial support and ordering of reactor components.
However, this scheme could stimulate the
second and following waves of nuclear power
plant construction that may take place ten or
more years from now.
In the climate change legislation, both the
House Bill and the Senate proposal include
the possible formation of the Clean Energy
Development Agency, but they differ in that
the House Bill excludes new nuclear generation from the power sales baseline for
the proposed renewable energy standard.
In addition to including nuclear energy in
this standard, many Republican senators are
pushing for a section of the Senate Bill that
would provide federal loan guarantees for
100 new reactors by 2030. According to a
US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
analysis of the House cap-and-trade scheme,
the market signal may stimulate financing for
up to 260 new 1000 MW reactors by 2050
[A–39]. Based on these EPA results, Fig. A–7
shows the avoided emissions resulting from
nuclear power, displacing coal under the
proposed cap-and-trade system. As part of
the 2005 Energy Policy Act, the US Government already has $18.5 billion of loan guarantees that it can offer for the first round of
6000 MW of new nuclear power plants.
Meanwhile, the future of Yucca Mountain as
the ultimate disposal site for spent fuel is
uncertain but this is not expected to delay
the next round of nuclear plant construction.
Experts agree that spent fuel can be safely
stored in dry storage casks for many decades.
Although the ultimate outcome of congressional deliberations on climate change legislation and additional federal support for
nuclear power remains uncertain, optimism
is increasing that the USA will in the coming
months commit to curbs on GHG emissions,
most likely through a cap-and-trade scheme.
Such a scheme could eventually provide the
market signal necessary for the construction
of up to 260 large reactors by mid-century.
FIG. A–7. Avoided GHG emissions due to nuclear power under the proposed cap-and-trade system.
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© IAEA, 2009
Printed by the IAEA in Austria
November 2009
ISBN 978–92–0–1123–9–1
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 Ontario Power Generation, Inc. Photographs courtesy of Japan
Steel Works (p. 29), and Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co. (p. 37).
09-43781
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]
Web: www.iaea.org/OurWork/ST/NE/Pess/
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