At the Sept. 16-20 annual gathering the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 159 member states at Vienna, China took the leadership in laying out the necessity of building more nuclear power plants, notwithstanding the bad publicity that the destruction of the Fukushima nuclear power plants has generated in recent days. China, joined by India, South Korea, and Indonesia, was addressing the IAEA’s cut in its long-term outlook for nuclear energy growth for a third year in a row. There is no doubt that the IAEA’s action was because of hesitation following the Fukushima crisis.
The IAEA has long abandoned active and scientific promotion of nuclear power and made excuses this year for its low projection for a nuclear future, by citing low natural gas prices, an increase in governments’ subsidizing “renewable” energy, and the financial crisis. On nuclear, it said, the industry could still nearly double its capacity by 2030 due to growth in Asia. Global nuclear power capacity was expected to increase to between 435 and 722 gigawatts by 2030 compared with 373 GW now, the UN agency said in its new projections. The estimates in 2012 were 456 and 740 GW, in the low and high scenario for 2030 respectively. In 2011, growth estimates were for between 501 and 746 GW, and in 2010 the forecast was for 546-803 GW.
“The Chinese government has never wavered [from] its firm determination to support nuclear energy development,” Ma Xingrui, chairman of China’s Atomic Energy Authority, said. With 17 nuclear power units now operating on the Chinese mainland, Beijing has another 28 under construction, the largest number in the world, he told the IAEA conference.
India’s construction of four home-designed pressurized heavy water reactors is progressing as scheduled, and it aims to build 16 more such plants, said Ratan Kumar Sinha, chairman of its Atomic Energy Commission. India now has 19 reactors in operation, he said. South Korea, too, is continuing efforts to expand its nuclear power program: it now has 23 plants and plans to build 11 new reactors by 2024, said Sank-Mok Lee, head of the South Korean delegation.