The Future of Nuclear Energy

17.1. INTRODUCTION/OBJECTIVES

This chapter will look at postulated future trends for energy requirements in the shorter and longer terms, extending over the next few decades. It will consider how nuclear energy could meet these requirements. It will also consider, albeit only briefly, some of the non­nuclear options that are being put forward as an alternative to nuclear power to meet demands. The chapter summarises the various applications of nuclear energy, including electricity generation, but also the other potential additional applications. It will provide a projection of possible nuclear development strategies in the industrialised and developing countries of the world. It will also bring together, in summary, the most important issues associated with the future of nuclear power that have been considered in the book.

Even without ‘new build’, many nuclear power plants will continue to operate for the next few decades and will offer a reliable carbon-free source of energy for electricity generation. However, fossil fuels are likely to occupy an increasing fraction of the energy supply, with the consequent issue of increased emissions of greenhouse gases. There will be newer technologies such as natural gas combined cycle plants and fluidised bed boilers becoming available. Greenhouse emissions may be reduced somewhat by newer plants and more efficient processes but carbon emissions will still be significant with these generators. Renewable energy offers a carbon-free alternative to nuclear energy, but the volume of supply would need to be substantially scaled up before it could replace the fraction of power generation currently produced by nuclear power.

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