x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

China leading nuclear energy growth

The world's nuclear energy capacity is set to double by 2030, reports an industry association, dispelling fears that the Fukushima disaster would put a cap on growth.

A race to build nuclear plants in China is outweighing the backlash against atomic energy sparked by the crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, an industry group says.

New reactors in China - home to nearly half of all such projects under construction - will help to double the world's nuclear capacity by 2030, the World Nuclear Association, based in London, says in a report.

The report released yesterday was the group's first assessment since the earthquake and tsunami in March that triggered a partial meltdown at three reactors and radiation contamination at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. After the disaster, nuclear operators braced for a slowdown as Germany, Switzerland and Italy swore off the energy source and various nations commissioned safety reviews.

Yesterday, the industry group dismissed those fears, instead increasing its growth forecast by 2 per cent from its 2009 report. Today's generating capacity of 364 gigawatts could rise to as much as 790 gigawatts over the next two decades, and high uranium prices are encouraging exploration and production of the raw material for nuclear fuel, the group reported.

The outlook was echoed by others in the sector this week. A European halt on free emissions permits for coal and gas power plants after next year will help to drive the nuclear renaissance, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's nuclear energy agency.

"The perception of nuclear safety in developing countries has not changed significantly since Fukushima," wrote Pierre Gadonneix, the chairman of the World Energy Council, an organisation in Paris that promotes energy dialogue.

"Therefore we will continue to see growth in this area, regardless of the recent decisions taken by Germany, Switzerland and Italy," continued Mr Gadonneix, who is also an honorary chairman at EDF, the state-controlled company that operates 58 reactors in France. "Globally, nuclear will move on."

Among the nations expected to contribute to growth in global nuclear power capacity is the UAE. A proposed US$20 billion (Dh73.45bn) power plant on the Abu Dhabi coast is expected to produce as much as a quarter of the emirate's electricity, with the first reactor scheduled to come online by 2017.

The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, the UAE's independent atomic watchdog, is reviewing those plans.

Jordan is expected in November to award a contract of $4bn to $10bn for the Arab world's second nuclear power plant. Saudi Arabia, which like Jordan relies on fossil fuels for most electricity generation, is also laying the groundwork for nuclear energy.

ayee@thenational.ae