MAC: Mines and Communities

The myth of uranium's "magic bullet"

Published by MAC on 2007-10-25

The myth of uranium's "magic bullet"

25th October 2007

The huge increase in uranium exploration, especially across Africa, is predicated on the assumption that nuclear power will swiftly become a magic solution to the mounting threats of global greenhouse gas emissions (GGE) from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

Even were this form of electricity generation "clean" (a hugely dubious proposition) there's little or no prospect that sufficient atomic power plants could be constructed - let alone come on-stream - to make a significant impact on GGE in the crucial next two decades.

In its latest annual report, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) predicts that nuclear's share of global elecricity generation will actually decrease between now and 2030. The agency's most optimistic projection is for atomic power output to double within the next 25 years; it's "low case" estimation is that output will rise by only a quarter during the same period.

Nuclear Power Output Could Double by 2030 - IAEA


25th October 2007

VIENNA - The world's output of nuclear power could nearly double by 2030, fuelled by demand from energy-hungry emerging economies and fears about security of supply and climate change, the UN said on Wednesday.

But the share that nuclear energy will contribute to global electricity production is still set to decline over the same period, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in its latest annual projection of growth of nuclear power.

Much of the expansion in nuclear-generated electricity will be in the far east and south Asia, IAEA nuclear energy analyst Alan McDonald said in an online interview.

"China and India have booming economies, booming populations and growing energy demand," he said. "They basically need to develop all the energy sources they can."

Currently, nuclear generation only accounts for 2 percent of China's total power output and 3 percent of India's.

Of the 31 nuclear power plants currently being built, 16 are in developing countries, mostly China and India.

For others nuclear power is more about supply security.

"In Japan and South Korea the problem is not so much the booming population as it is the lack of indigenous oil and gas resources in particular, and so for them nuclear is attractive for energy security reasons, and also -- particularly in Japan -- for reducing greenhouse gas emissions," said McDonald.


The IAEA report makes low and high-case projections.

The low-case projection assumes all nuclear capacity under construction or firmly in development is completed and attached to the grid without adding other capacity. That means output of nuclear-generated electricity will rise by a quarter by 2030.

The high-case projection assumes other reasonable projects will go ahead, and forecasts output will rise by 93 percent.

A high-case projection for western Europe, on the basis that Germany keeps its nuclear power plants running and Britain replaces outgoing ones, foresees capacity for nuclear power rising by 20 percent by 2020.

But if Germany and Belgium phase out their nuclear programmes and Britain replaces retiring nuclear plants with other power sources it will fall 40 percent by 2030.

The United States -- which has 103 reactors providing a fifth of its electricity -- could see capacity expand by between 15 and 50 percent, said McDonald.

But even though nuclear capacity will expand in absolute terms, its share of all generation will fall because other sources of electricity will grow faster.

In 1960, nuclear accounted for less than 1 percent of global electricity production. Its share rose to 16 percent in the mid-eighties and has kept steady around this level until now.

By 2030, this share is expected to drop to around 13 percent, the IAEA said.



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