The state of Nuclear after Fukushima and Germany






Steve Kidd, deputy director general at the World Nuclear Association, takes a look at the long term outlook for nuclear power in a post Fukushima world without Germany as a major player. (Listen to the interview at the original source – Mineweb)


GEOFF CANDY:  Welcome to this week’s edition of’s Metals Weekly podcast and joining me on the line is Steve Kidd – he’s the deputy director general at the World Nuclear Association.  Steve there has been a lot of activity in the nuclear sector and indeed in the uranium sector as well since the 11 May earthquake in Japan and the disaster at the Fukushima UAL nuclear power plant.  There have been a lot of disparate reactions to the news as well – there have been some countries that have almost shut up shop or threatened to do so, and some that are going ahead – how do you see the lay of the land with regard to the nuclear sector as it stands, post Fukushima?

STEVE KIDD:  If you take it overall, just looking at where nuclear generating capacity will be in 10 or 15 years’ time, you’re going to see it being in general somewhat lower than before – a few months back, simply because a number of countries are going to go slower, or in the case of Germany, they’ve decided that they’re going to pull out of nuclear by the early 2020s.  So overall the impact of Fukushima has got to be negative for the industry.  But then there’s still substantial growth expected because some countries are very determined to have more nuclear at the moment, particularly the large developing countries like China and India and I don’t think that Fukushima is going to cause a significant change to their plans.

GEOFF CANDY:  Let’s look at India and China because clearly they are expected to be the growth engines for a lot of things, not just for the nuclear industry, but we have seen concerns in some parts of India – protests about the building of new nuclear power stations.  You have had China saying they do need to look or re-look at some of these things – how do you see these two countries going forward from here – are we likely to see more regulation or what exactly is likely to change, do you think?

STEVE KIDD:  The regulatory regime will be stiffened in both of those big developing cultures.  In India for example after Fukushima they announced that the regulator would be made independent of the government and of the industry, which before hadn’t really been the case.  The issues that have come up in India over the siting of the reactors were going to come up anyway.  I don’t think they are particularly related to Fukushima, although Fukushima hasn’t made those any easier.  The issues of the land rights of the local people around some of the prospective nuclear sites and in a very active democracy like India this is always going to be a big issue that’s got to be overcome.  The situation in China is very different – generally when companies want to build nuclear power stations in China they get very strong local support as it means a lot of jobs and economic development in that area, and although the regulators are going to obviously look more closely at the plans, particularly where there are in areas of China that are prone to earthquakes.  I believe their programme is still set to go ahead very quickly.  It might be slowed slightly from what was anticipated six months ago, but it’s still a very strong programme.

GEOFF CANDY:  Just to put it into perspective, how much nuclear capacity is there at the moment – how much is planned for the next say 10 years – how big is the sector likely to get or is it expected to get, I should say?

STEVE KIDD:  Well if you take the size of the nuclear business in the world at the moment, there are 440 operating reactors around the world and they have a total capacity of about 370 gigawatts.  By 2020 the expectation is that the nuclear generation would rise to something like 500 gigawatts.  Beyond then going up to 2030 more optimistic scenarios with it going to 750 or 800 gigawatts – so more than double where it is today.  Others would see it perhaps only rising to 600 or so.  But the interesting thing about the 2020s is that you do get the possibility of rather more nuclear countries coming into the equation.  When you look at the many of the prospective nuclear countries around the world, it’s unlikely though that they’d get nuclear reactors before 2020 – but if things work out well over the next few years, we could probably see quite a lot of additional countries coming in during the 2020s – South East Asia, more in the Middle East, maybe others in some parts of America – or in Africa.

GEOFF CANDY:  You mentioned perspective new countries – Saudi Arabia making some interesting comments, or making some interesting statements over the last few days – how soon are they likely to enter into the market?

STEVE KIDD:  I don’t think they’re likely to get an operating reactor up and running before 2020 – in the Middle East that’s only likely to be Abu Dhabi that’s already ordered four Korean reactors.  They’re likely to come into operation between 2017 and 2020.  With Saudi Arabia the earliest you’re looking at is the early 2020s for the first reactors.  So it’s really 10 years away at the moment.

GEOFF CANDY:  What does this mean for the uranium sector?

STEVE KIDD:  Given the overall assessment that the amount of working generating capacity is now going to be a little bit lower than we previously expected, we’re looking perhaps at 2020 it might be 10% below what we thought before.  Obviously it’s not favourable for the uranium sector, but the production plans, the mine developments will simply react to that reality.  It might now take rather longer to get some of the prospective mines into operation.  But eventually they’re likely to be needed because throughout the 2020s the level of demand will carry on rising, and rising quite quickly.

GEOFF CANDY:  I suppose just to close off with – two final questions.  The fundamental question with regard to Fukushima was how far back did it set the nuclear industry because there was a feeling of general good will almost just ahead of that, people were very excited about nuclear, they saw it as the answer to a lot of problems and indeed to a lot of pollution that is created by fossil fuel power.  How stunted has the growth become because of Fukushima?

STEVE KIDD:  I don’t think that Fukushima is going to change the world energy supply and demand outlook fundamentally.  The world still needs large quantities of clean energy and nuclear is one of the possible answers to that.  Fukushima doesn’t change that overall assessment.  So there’s a very big role for nuclear in the future of world energy – that hasn’t changed I guess for many countries around the world the image of nuclear might have been tarnished slightly, but eventually the industry will get over that and the reality is that it’s a very good and very safe way of generating clean electricity in large quantities.  So that assessment will overcome the immediate rather negative sentiment.

GEOFF CANDY:  Finally, in terms of the role of Germany, how important was that decision by them to pull out of the nuclear race and are we likely to see them getting back into it at any time, do you think?

STEVE KIDD:  It’s unlikely that they will suddenly reverse yet again – go back into nuclear in a big way.  The problem in Germany is that the anti-nuclear sentiment runs very deep – it even runs in the Christian Democrat Party that’s supposedly pro-nuclear – there are quite a lot of people who vote for that party who are not very keen on nuclear.  So I don’t think there’ll be a big change in Germany any time soon.  They may get a government in power at some point over the next five, six or seven years that decides that the reactors in operation can run for longer.  But at the moment it’s quite hard to envisage that happening where we stand today.  Germany is obviously a country that’s associated with top level engineering – has a lot of very good companies in engineering and has always had a major part in the nuclear sector.  But there are other countries who are willing to jump into the opportunity that’s been created by the Germans essentially pulling out of nuclear, so I don’t think overall for the future of the industry, it will have a very big impact – certainly in Germany it does but other countries are going to do very different things.  Just looking in Europe, to France and to the United Kingdom, the policy there is very different to Germany.






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