Growth Spurt Foreseen for Global Nuclear Capacity as Japan Resumes Construction of ABWR

Global nuclear power capacity is expected to grow nearly 25% from current levels to 456 GW by 2030 according to low projections, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano told conference attendees in Kyoto, Japan, on Monday. The Fukushima Daiichi accident was a "big wake-up call" on nuclear safety, but it would not mean "the end of nuclear power," he said as he called on Japan to engage in dialogue about its stated policy to shut down all existing reactors by 2040.

The IAEA’s high projection foresees 740 GW of new nuclear power capacity by 2030, Amano said, built mostly by "established users" such as China, India, the Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation. New capacity would also be built by "newcomer" countries that are showing "keen interest" in nuclear power as a means to meet growing energy requirements, global climate change, volatile fossil fuel prices, energy security, and economic competitiveness, he said.

Amano’s brief speech outlined international measures that had been taken to identify and address possible safety weak points at nuclear plants. The IAEA had expanded its program of expert peer reviews, it undertook a systematic review of IAEA safety standards, and incorporated lessons learned from Fukushima. Though many discussions on different technical issues at international expert meetings have taken place, he said a "considerable amount of work still remains to be done under the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety. It is essential that all of us—[m]ember [s]tates, the IAEA and other key stakeholders—maintain our sense of urgency and our commitment to implementing the Action Plan in full."

Amano also briefly  addressed Japan’s recently stated policy to close all its viable nuclear reactors by 2040 and increase its reliance on renewable energy, energy efficiency, and fossil fuels. Japan’s Cabinet has not endorsed the strategy announced by the Ministry of State for National Policy, saying instead the country’s government would "engage in debate with local governments and international society to gain public understanding."

Last week, three local Japanese municipalities approved plans by Electric Power Development Co. (J-Power) to restart work on a plant in Omha, Aomori prefecture, where work had been shelved since the Great Tohuku Earthquake. J-POWER said in a statement that it decided to resume work on the advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR) after "the treatment of nuclear power plants under construction became clear" under the Innovative Strategy for Energy and Environment announced on Sept. 14.

Work is also reportedly nearing completion at Chugoku Electric’s Shimane 3 reactor, another ABWR, though no date for commercial operation has yet been announced. The other two reactors that had been under construction before the accident in Fukushima, Higashidori No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, have been stalled indefinitely as developer Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), owner and operator of the devastated Fukushima Daiichi plant, struggles to regain financial stability.

Meanwhile, Japan recently also installed a new nuclear regulatory body that has been drafting new, stricter rules on nuclear safety.

The IAEA’s Amano on Monday called on the Japanese government to "engage in dialogue with the international community" on its new energy policy, saying that though he recognized "energy policy is a matter that each sovereign state should decide on its own," a decision by a country like Japan "has global implications."

"Despite the accident, the use of nuclear power will continue to expand steadily. It is wrong to believe that the Fukushima Daiichi accident means the end of nuclear power," he said.

Sources: POWERnews, IAEA, J-Power
—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)

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