Electricity Generation

Electricity generation is by far the most important civil nuclear energy application. This is likely to remain the case in the future, although some additional applications are envisaged, as discussed below.

There are marked differences across the major industrialised sectors in regard to future trends for nuclear power electricity generation. In Asia, modest expansion can be expected, in Europe, Finland is preparing for new build, but other European countries, e. g. Belgium and Germany are pursuing phase out policies. Nuclear power potential is being reconsidered in the US. Table 17.2 shows a relatively pessimistic scenario for nuclear power whereby no new power plants are built, beyond those already being built or firmly planned, together with the retirement of old plants.

Regarding nuclear power for either electrical or non-electrical generation, a key safety issue concerns the management of nuclear waste. Supporters of nuclear energy argue that the technical problems associated with waste disposal are solved, opponents do not agree. There are other commercial and practical issues such as: capital cost, market price of nuclear electricity and energy, and the risks, including liabilities and availability of an adequate skill base. All these will impact any decision for new build. It is worth noting that some experts assert that the capital cost of modern nuclear plant is no higher than that of new coal plant. There are also predictions that the total cost of nuclear electricity of Generation IV reactors will be less than that of gas plant.

Table 17.2. Percentage change of nuclear power generation compared with 2001

Country Group

2010(%)

2015 (%)

2020 (%)

North America

+ 2

—3

—6

Western Europe

— 7

— 13

— 31

Eastern Europe

+12

+ 22

+ 23

Far East

+ 39

56

54

World total

+ 8

+9

+2

In order to improve on energy efficiency, there is likely to be increased interest in CHP. For example, in the UK, about 9 GW of nuclear plant will be decommissioned over the next two decades, and by 2010 the UK is planning to install about 10 GWe of CHP plant (http://www-tec. open. ac. uk/eeru/naatta/renewonline/rol39/11.htm). This is a commitment in the Energy White Paper (Energy White Paper, 2003). Currently heat produced in electricity generation is largely wasted. CHP plants could be made to produce heat as well as electricity in approximately equal proportions. Supporters of non-nuclear energy generation argue that the adoption of gas-fired CHP plants would release gas currently used for heating, for use in electricity generation without leading to increase in carbon emissions. However, if nuclear plant provides the CHP energy source, then carbon emissions are quantitatively reduced.

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