VIENNA -- Nuclear power is projected to continue expanding globally in the coming years, even as the pace of growth slows amid competition from low fossil fuel prices and renewable energy sources, according to an IAEA study released today.

Each year in Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050, the IAEA presents its projections of the world's nuclear power generating capacity.

"Nuclear energy, in the long run, will continue to play an important role in the world's energy mix," said IAEA Deputy Director-General Mikhail Chudakov, Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. "With populations and demand for electricity growing, nuclear power can help ensure reliable and secure energy supplies, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, nuclear power can help lift millions of people out of energy poverty, while also combatting climate change."

The new projections indicate a slowing in the growth of nuclear power, in keeping with the trend since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident. Nuclear power generating capacity is projected to expand by between 1.9 percent and 56 percent by 2030, compared with the previous estimate of between 2.4 percent and 68 percent from last year.

The world's nuclear reactor fleet is also ageing, with more than half of the 450 reactors currently in operation being over 30 years old. While the low projections show only modest capacity growth, the need to replace scores of old reactors means that "total new capacity constructed will be much greater than the apparent net increase," according to the report, now in its 36th edition.

"The low case, which essentially shows no increase in the installed capacity, assumes some 150 GW(e) of new capacity built over the next 15 years."

According to the projections, the world's nuclear power generating capacity is seen expanding to 390.2 GW(e) by 2030 in the low estimate, from 382.9 GW(e) last year, while in the high estimate it is projected to rise to 598.2 GW(e). One gigawatt is equal to one billion watts of electrical power.

The Far East will see the largest expansion, especially in China and the Republic of Korea. In the low estimate, capacity in that region is seen growing to 132.2 GW(e) by 2030, from the current 93.8 GW(e). In the high estimate, capacity is projected to expand to 215.5 GW(e).

India is leading the expansion in the Middle East and South Asia, where capacity is seen at 27.7 GW(e) by 2030, in the low estimate, from 6.9 GW(e) in 2015, rising to 47.7 GW(e) in the high estimate.

Eastern Europe presents a mixed picture. The region includes Russia, with seven reactors under construction, as well as Belarus, which is building its first two units. The low case estimates regional capacity at 49.9 GW(e) by 2030, down slightly from the current 50.5 GW(e), while capacity increases to 75.7 GW(e) in the high case.

Western Europe risks the largest decline. With Germany phasing out nuclear power in response to the Fukushima accident, the low projections reflect a decrease in regional capacity to 77 GW(e) by 2030, from the current 112.1 GW(e). The high projections show a decline to 111.8 GW(e).

North American capacity is also seen falling in the low case to 92.5 GW(e) by 2030, from the current 112.7 GW(e). The high case estimates an increase to 126 GW(e).

Source: Emirates News Agency