NUCLEAR INDUSTRY AND THE NEAR FUTURE

The nuclear industry may be unique among the industrialised industries in regard to the safety standards expected from it. Increasingly higher standards will be placed in the future. Having operated successfully (in the main) for over half a century and having met these standards, any lapse would be quickly seized upon. Thus the most important aim in the near future is to ensure that safe and reliable operation continues.

As observed earlier, there will be increasing emphasis on ensuring that the environment is protected from the operations of industries. The nuclear industry will have to meet increasingly stringent limits on radiological releases; it will need to pay greater attention to emergency preparedness planning, etc. As already stated, the measures that are being considered to reduce greenhouse gas release should benefit the case for nuclear power, which in this respect is a clean source of power.

For the de-regulated utilities, there is a need to create more investor confidence. In the US, for example there is evidence that investors now perceive the industry more positively. It is seen to be a stable industry in the more competitive market of today and can offer advantages over its competitors. In the recent years, low and stable operating costs have been realised. A number of large multi-unit sites are generating at a little under 2-2.2 cents per kW h (Sinco, 2003).

In many countries a commitment to new build will be a business decision against other generator alternatives. The target in the US is around $1100 per kW if it is to be competitive with combined-cycle gas.

Another factor in engendering investor confidence is to ensure a stable predictable licensing process in order to reduce uncertainties for the owner/utility. There have been moves towards design certification in both Europe and the US, which is an important step. However, there are still areas of uncertainty, e. g. associated with the time taken to gain the plant operating licence, following construction.

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