Even without the building of new nuclear plants, IAEA projections indicate that global nuclear generation will continue at least at the present level or higher, until around 2020. Large decreases in Western Europe and to a lesser extent in the US will be compensated by significant increases in the Far East and to a lesser extent in Eastern Europe.

Decisions on nuclear power continuation will be country dependent and will depend on the perceived benefits against the risks and alternatives for other forms of energy generation. There will be strong economic competition from the fossil fuel generators, e. g. combined cycle gas plants.

In deregulated industries, for nuclear new build, there will need to be frameworks in place to enable power companies to accept their large capital investment risk, in particular for them to have confidence that building cost forecasts and construction schedules can be met. There is also the issue of long-term operational risk (stability of electricity prices) and eventual decommissioning costs. Finally, risks arising from delays in the regulatory licensing process must be acceptable. There is progress in some countries towards resolving these issues, e. g. in the US.

For new build, there will most likely be a need for a nuclear obligation from governments to enable suppliers or operators to sign up for long-term contracts. It will also be necessary to put in place some kind of Price-Anderson act to limit insurance risks.

Another important factor regarding the continuation of nuclear power will be whether an acceptable solution to the legacy and future waste problem becomes available. Further, utilities will probably require some type of fixed price contract from governments for managing their waste, i. e. governments will have to accept liabilities for waste.

The long-term future of nuclear energy may be influenced by increased global environmental legislation to limit carbon emissions, if the rate of ‘greenhouse’ gases continues to rise. On the assumption that the latter does occur, nuclear power will need to compete for acceptance against alternative carbon-free (renewables) energy generators. The economic case will depend heavily on whether there exist carbon premiums on generation, e. g. carbon taxes or permits.

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