For many decades almost all the electricity consumed in the world has been generated from three different forms of power plant – fossil, hydro and nuclear. Renewables currently generate a relatively small share of the world’s electricity, although that share is growing fast.
Every form of electricity generation has its strengths and weakness. The global demand for electricity is rising, and future electricity generation will need a range of options, although they must be low carbon if greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced. Volatile oil prices are a warning that the era of cheap and abundant transport fuel may be drawing to a close. Universal concern about climate change and the impact of global warming is forcing a re-appraisal of the use of carbon-emitting fossil fuel in the energy generation sector of most economies. Nuclear generation provides reliable supplies of electricity, with very low carbon emissions and relatively small amounts of waste that can be safely stored and eventually disposed of. In this context it is no surprise that nuclear energy is emerging as the major low cost, reliable, low carbon, large scale energy technology for the 21st century.
Global demand for Electricity is set to grow 76% by 2030, (source: WNA, July 2012) with nuclear energy currently generating around 13% of the world’s electricity, with almost no greenhouse gas emissions. In China, power generation requirements are expected to almost double in 15 years, with much of this being met by nuclear. China intends a fivefold increase in nuclear power capacity by 2020 (from 2005 level).
The enormous economic growth in China and India, and significant economic reform in Eastern Europe and parts of Latin America are increasing demand for global energy. Governments understand this and, driven by China, Russian and India, countries are implementing nuclear build programs around the world. Even Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt and Jordan traditionally using oil for their energy are in various phases of implementing, planning or proposing nuclear reactors.
Comparative Costs and CO2 Emission by Energy Source
Source METI, WNA
Nuclear Power, Energy and the Environment
43.1% 36.1% 20.4% 0.4%
Coal Oil Gas Other
Global CO2 emissions = 30 billion tonnes per year