Nuclear power capacity could double by 2030, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The latest figures predict net growth of at least 100 GWe.
Announcing the publication of the 2008 edition of Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2030, the IAEA said, "Nuclear power, in step with growing global demand for energy, will continue expanding into the next two decades."
The annually-produced publication provides high and low projections on the prospects for nuclear energy worldwide. The low projection assumes that "all nuclear capacity currently under construction or in the development pipeline gets constructed and current policies, such as phase-outs, remain unchanged." The high scenario is based on "government and corporate announcements about longer term plans for nuclear investments, as well as potential new national policies, such as responses to new international environmental agreements to combat climate change."
Under the low scenario, the IAEA said that nuclear generating capacity would increase from the current 372 GWe at an annual average growth rate of 1.3% to 473 GWe in 2030. However, under the high scenario, capacity would double, growing by an average annual rate of 3.3% to 748 GWe in 2030. The projections are higher than those given in the 2007 edition of the publication, which under the low scenario projected capacity of 447 GWe by 2030, and under the high scenario, 691 GWe by 2030.
Hans-Holger Rogner, head of the IAEA's Nuclear Energy Planning and Economics Studies Section, said that rising costs of natural gas and coal, together with energy supply security and environmental constraints, are among the factors contributing to nuclear's growth.
Rogner commented: "The IAEA's higher projection is in step with an anticipated level of 3.2% annual growth in global power generation. In the low projection, overall global electricity annual growth is 1.9% and nuclear's share is projected to drop to about 12.5% by 2030."
From 2007 to 2008 the report says, total global electricity generation rose 4.8% while nuclear power's share dropped to 14% from a nearly steady rate of 16-17% between 1986 and 2005.
Rogner said that new environmental constraints, such as entry-into-force of the Kyoto Protocol and the European carbon trading scheme, mean there is now a real financial benefit to avoiding greenhouse gas emissions, adding to the appeal of low-carbon electricity generation, including nuclear power and renewables.
The complete nuclear power chain - including uranium mining, reactor construction and waste disposal - emits only 3 to 24 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour, about the same as wind and hydro power, and well below coal, oil and natural gas, Rogner added.
WNA looks to 2100
In its recently released Nuclear Century Outlook, the World Nuclear Association (WNA) has made both optimistic and pessimistic projections on the use of nuclear energy worldwide to 2100. The Outlook is built on country-by-country assessments of the ultimate growth potential of national nuclear programs, based on estimates of need and capability.
For 2030, the WNA projects global nuclear generating capacity under the low scenario of 552 GWe, while under the high scenario, 1203 GWe. This increases to 1136 GWe and 3488 GWe, respectively, by 2060. By the end of the century the WNA puts a maximum nuclear capacity of around 11,000 GWe under the high scenario.