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NuclearFuture
versionsofcurrentreactortypes,withsimilarcharacteristics. andinvolveexploitinghighcarbon-emittinguraniumminesis
Although nuclear technology has now arguably reached a alsononsense:Theaveragegradeofdepositsbeingexploitedis
high level of maturity (the main reactor design in use actuallyrisingtodayandeveniflowgradereservesaretobe
throughouttheworldgoesbacktothe1950s)theindustryitself developed, techniques such as in situ leaching (ISL) are not
clearlyhasnot.Becauseofthetechnicalfailures,fallingfossil highincarbonemissions.Finally,decommissioningcostsare
fuelpricesandtheinabilitytoexplainitselfwelltothegeneral not material in new nuclear build decisions (neither are the
public, its potential for expansion got cut off in the 1980s. majorwastemanagementcosts,forsimilarreasons).Thecosts
Thereiscurrentlyasignificantincreaseintheattentionbeing willbeincurredsofarinthefuturethattheplantownerwill
paidtothepossibilityofnewnuclearbuildinmanycountries not have to put away huge sums each year to fund them:
– in some cases in those currently without reactors such as Provided they start early on, the fund will eventually
Poland,IndonesiaandVietnam.Thereasonsforthisarepartly accumulatenicely(asapensionfundindeedshould).
economic,butperhapsmoreconnectedinmostcountrieswith Therealchallengetoanuclearrevivalwillcomefromeither
security of supply and nuclear’s possible role in GHG alackofpoliticalwilloralackofgutsfromthosechargedwith
abatement. making decisions on new
Table 2 shows the current
Therealchallengetoanuclear
generating capacity. We can see
picture,as43reactorsarecurrently
underconstructionthroughoutthe
revivalwillcomefromeitheralack
eachofthesebyreferringtotheUK
and the US, where a new nuclear
world with over 100 firmly
ofpoliticalwilloralackofgutsfrom
buildrevivaliscrucialasaleadto
planned, and almost 300 thosechargedwithmakingdecisions the remainder of Europe (UK) and
proposed. The arguments of those therestoftheworld(US).
opposed to nuclear power have been increasingly shown as In the UK, the government has demonstrated the political
weak and without substantial foundation. It may be will to support new build. It must still push through the
premature to say that the intellectual battle in favour of regulatory reforms to ensure that reactors can be approved
nuclear power has been won, but it is increasingly looking and built in a reasonable time, it must finalise policies on
thatway. waste management and decommissioning (so plant owners
Provisionswhichhavebeenputinplacetoguaranteeplant knowexactlytheextentofthefinancialprovisionstheymust
securityfromterroristsandoperationalsafetyarewidelyseen make) and satisfy the requirements on plant security and
as very effective, while the international non-proliferation nuclear liability. The United States has got rather further
regimeisdevelopingbuthasalreadybeenshowntoworkwell aheadinmostoftheseareassotheissuethereismoreoneof,
inpractice.Althoughthelatestplantdesignshaveyettoprove ‘Who is ready to invest?’. Nuclear power plants are highly
beyond all doubt that they can be highly economic, the complex projects and it is almost understandable if a power
economicsuccessofcurrentoperatingreactorssuggestthatthis utility chief executive holds up his hands in horror at the
ishighlylikely.Cheapandreliablepower,withoutlikelyprice prospect and says, “Let’s build a gas or coal plant instead.”
spikes,overmanyyearsisakeyadvantageofnuclearpower Thismaybeamuchsaferbusinessdecision,sosomecourage
plantsandthemessageisslowlygettingacrossthatthisisso. isneeded,atleastforthefirstinvestortocommit.Itwillneed
Whatisneededisthecouragetogetovertheinitialperiodof someinitialgovernmentsubsidiestoencouragethem,suchas
painofhighinitialcapitalcoststoenterthe‘landofmilkand the loan guarantees and production tax credits already in
honey’ in subsequent years, where nuclear plants can be place, but these should be sufficient to get the ball rolling.
almost‘ATMs’fortheirowners. After that, the nuclear sector should be able to stand on its
The waste issue is perhaps still the most difficult for the own feet and show that it can indeed generate a huge
industrytoaddress,butcombinationsofnationalpoliticalwill quantity of power economically and environmentally-
topushsolutionsandtheinternationalinitiativesmentioned soundly, while contributing to national and regional energy
earliershouldgoalongwaytowardssolvingit.Theuranium securityofsupply.

resourceissuesometimesbroughtupbynuclearopponentsis
irrelevant, as any understanding of the reserves figures, the Stephen W. Kidd isDirectorofStrategy&Research
significant increase in exploration now occurring and the withtheWorldNuclearAssociation.
likelychangesinreactortechnologybeyond2020willquickly E: kidd@world-nuclear.org
show.Theargumentthatreserveswilleventuallygetstretched www.world-nuclear.org
156 worldPower2009
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