25 May 2012 – The World Energy Council released a report this year that indicates the impact of the Fukushima reactor failure following a Tsunami in Japan will have only a limited impact on the outlook of nuclear energy globally.
One year after the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the World Energy Council (WEC) published a study analysing the impact of the accident on national nuclear energy plans worldwide. The report finds that very little has changed, especially in non-OECD countries, in respect of the future utilisation of nuclear in the energy mix, according to the data analysed by the study group. In addition, very little has changed in respect of improving global governance of the nuclear sector, highlighting the need for action.
The report concludes that there is critical need to inform the public about issues relating to nuclear generation technologies, safety, costs, benefits and risks.
Pierre Gadonneix, chairman of the World Energy Council, says, “It is clear from the report that nuclear energy will play a full part in the future energy mix, especially in developing countries, provided nuclear safety and transparency are continuously being reinforced. I believe there is a real opportunity for our world leaders to promote a consensual solution to this issue and thus demonstrate that real international governance, where emerging economies fully participate, can be successful.”
The report highlights that currently about 50 countries are operating, building, or considering nuclear power as part of their energy mix. About half of these countries are newcomers to nuclear. More than 60 nuclear plants are under construction, mainly in China, Russia, India and South Korea.
The growth in the utilisation of nuclear power is mainly driven by non-OECD countries – the very countries that are seeing ever rising energy demand. These countries account for 39 out of the 63 nuclear power plants currently being built worldwide (including 26 in China, 10 in Russia, seven in India).
Ayed Al-Qahtani, WEC’s senior project manager, says, “The Fukushima accident has not led to any significant retraction in nuclear energy programmes in countries outside Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Japan. The progress in many national nuclear power programmes, especially in non-OECD countries, has been delayed, but there is no indication that their pursuit of nuclear power has declined in response to Fukushima.”
Where national governments have altered their plans for nuclear, the report highlights the role that public opinion has played in affecting government decisions. Christoph Frei, secretary general of the World Energy Council, comments, “Fukushima has accelerated a trend towards more energy democratisation. At the heart of this is the question of trust. The public demands transparency and participation in decisions about the future of their country’s energy mix. Therefore all sides must engage in a fact-based dialogue about the tensions between security of supply, environment, and access to energy.”
The report, compiled by energy experts, practitioners and regulators from 13 countries under the chairmanship of Alessandro Clerici, and incorporating feedback from WEC’s network in over 90 countries, highlights the impact that Fukushima has had on the sector. Summarising the report Clerici says, “Apart from the limited cases where the Fukushima accident has caused governments to think again, the majority of countries, after the initial emotion, are now engaged in a rational assessment of the pros and cons of nuclear to bring energy to their populations. In the pursuit of sustainable energy, no technology should be idolised or demonised. This study shows that the nuclear option is not being disregarded worldwide. However, national boundaries are meaningless in the context of severe nuclear accidents. Therefore, safety and regulation, and the lessons learnt, must clearly lead to the improvement of the security of existing and future nuclear energy plants.”