Even a nuclear disaster like Fukushima cannot wipe out nuclear
reactors from the world. Accidents, proliferation, social unease
and high capital costs, all indicate that nuclear energy cannot
grow fast, though in general, this is the case with almost all
energy technologies that mature and succeed each other over many
decades. Eventually, nuclear will play a larger role in electricity
generation, but it will get there slowly.
In a pre-Fukushima report, according to the BP Statistical
Review of World Energy (2010), energy consumption in the OECD
countries during 2009 fell faster than GDP, marking the first
decline since 1928 and the sharpest decline (in percentage terms)
on record. The developing world on the other hand, experienced an
energy consumption growth faster than GDP. Looking forward, based
on the reference case scenario of the International Energy Outlook
(2010) report, world marketed energy consumption, total energy
demand in the non-OECD and in the OECD countries is expected to
increase by 49, 84, and 14 percent from 2007 to 2035, respectively.
The latter two demand percentages pinpoint the increasingly high
importance that emerging markets play in the world economy,
especially during and after the global economic recession that
started in 2007. Most of the growth in energy demand mainly stems
again from the non-OECD countries that are also expected to have by
far the highest growth in energy consumption compared to the OECD
countries (see figure 1). Even though most of the developed
countries seem to have exited the recession, the recovery has been
mostly led by countries such as China and India, with Japan and the
European Union member countries being the laggards.
Figure 1: World marketed energy consumption 2007-2035, Reference
case (in quadrillion Btu).
In addition, even though consumption of renewable and
alternative energy sources is expected to increase in the future,
most of the energy consumed worldwide is expected to come from
fossil fuels, such as liquid fuels and other petroleum, natural gas
and coal (see figure 2). Although energy prices collapsed in
mid-2008 as a result of the worldwide concerns about the deepening
recession, in 2009 prices bounced back and have remained high until
now. The latter concerns about sluggish economic growth, in
conjunction with certain geopolitical and non-geological factors that limit access to
prospective conventional resources, allowed unconventional
resources such as oil sands, shale oil, gas-to-liquids, and
bio-fuels to become economically competitive.
Figure 1‑2: World marketed energy use by fuel type 1990-2035,
Reference case (in quadrillion Btu).
Moreover, increased concerns about the environmental
consequences of greenhouse gas emissions, has led to increased
interest in alternatives to fossil fuels such as nuclear power and
renewable sources, mostly due to higher fossil fuel prices and the
receipt of major support by governmental incentives throughout the
world (see figure 3). However, most renewable generation
technologies are not economically competitive with fossil fuels,
besides hydropower and wind power that are mainly expected to
deliver most of the world's increase in renewable electricity
supply in the near future. Typically, renewable electricity
generated by sources other than wind and hydro, such as solar,
biomass, waste, tidal and wave, is primarily supported by
government incentives or policies that fund the construction of
renewable generation facilities.
Figure 3: World net electricity generation by fuel 2007-2035,
Reference case (in trillion kwh).
No technology can solve the climate problem on its own. Hence,
even if nuclear makes only a partial contribution towards global
emissions reduction, it is definitely worth having. Based on
calculations of the IEA's 2011 World Energy Outlook, keeping the
20 C limit plausible would cost an additional $1.5
trillion in case OECD countries were to stop building nuclear
plants and other countries withdrew from their planned nuclear
programs. To that end, there are strong indications from emerging
markets that they will continue with their ambitious nuclear
programs. China plans to add more nuclear capacity in the next ten
years that France has in total, from 10GW to 80GW. Nonetheless,
this will increase China's nuclear power generation only from 2% to
less than 5% of the country's electricity needs; when South Korea
gets some 30% of its electricity, much the same as Japan did
pre-Fukushima, and more than any large economy other than France
Finally, small modular reactors (SMRs) of up to 300MW seem to
become even more popular, as they can reach markets which big
reactors (more than 1GW) cannot. They can be installed in ships,
both military and merchant, industrial zones etc. These small SMRs
could potentially create economies of large numbers (i.e. if
produced in factories and not on site), leading to significant cost
reductions through incremental improvements, which would make them
even more attractive.
Hence, there are strong indications that nuclear electricity
generation is here to stay, and perhaps play an even larger role in
the future, where challenges lie ahead for the world's climate
 BP Statistical Review of World Energy,
2010. Available online at: http://www.bp.com/statistical
 International Energy Outlook, 2010. U.S.
Energy Information Administration. Available online at: http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/index.cfm.
 International Energy Agency, 2011. World
Energy Outlook. Available online at: http://www.iea.org.
 Economist, 2012. Nuclear Energy Special
Report: The prospects. March 10-16, 2012. Available online at:
 Non-geological factors
include conflicts and terrorist activity, environmental protection
actions, labour and material shortages, lack of technological
advances, adverse weather conditions etc.