A recently released International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) study predicts that nuclear power will continue expanding globally in the coming years, even as the pace of development slows due to low fossil fuel prices and the growth of renewable energy.

The IAEA presents nuclear power generating capacity projections annually. The estimates were released just days prior to the opening of the agency’s 60th General Conference, which began September 26 in Vienna, Austria. The forecasts take into account developments through April 2016.

The low case, which offers “conservative but plausible” estimates, assumes a continuation of current market, technology, and resource trends with few changes to policies affecting nuclear power. In the low case, nuclear power generating capacity is projected to expand by 1.9% by 2030.

The high case, on the other hand, assumes current rates of economic and electricity demand growth will continue, particularly in Asia. It also envisions nuclear power taking on a larger role in helping member states meet greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments. In that case, capacity is seen growing 56% by 2030.

While the difference between the two cases is quite large, uncertainty related to energy policy, license renewals, retirements, and future construction accounts for the range.

“Nuclear energy, in the long run, will continue to play an important role in the world’s energy mix,” said IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov, head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. “With populations and demand for electricity growing, nuclear power can help ensure reliable and secure energy supplies while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, nuclear power can help lift millions of people out of energy poverty while also combatting climate change.”

In his opening statement to General Conference attendees, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano agreed that nuclear power can make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and delivering energy in the quantities needed for global development.

“When I first took up office, I stated that nuclear power should not be the preserve of developed countries and that developing countries should also be able to use it,” Amano said.

“Today, some 30 developing countries are considering introducing nuclear power,” he added, noting that the first of four nuclear reactors under construction in the United Arab Emirates is expected to begin operation next year. Some other countries with nuclear aspirations include Bangladesh, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)