The current picture is one of rising expectations, the IAEA Director-General, Mohamed ElBaradei, told the organisations Board of Governors meeting on March 5 in Vienna. Based on the most conservative assumption, the latest report on the subject forecasts around 430 gigawatts of global nuclear capacity in 2020, up from 367 gigawatts today, translating into just over 500 nuclear power plants worldwide by then.
This represents a slight rise in nuclear power’s share in the world electricity market, to 17 per cent from 16 per cent, reversing previous downward estimates. Today, some 30 countries produce electricity using nuclear power. Worldwide 441 nuclear plants are in operation and 27 are being built.
The fastest growth is in Asia. By 2020 for example, China plans a six-fold increase in its nuclear electricity capacity, India a 10-fold increase. Mr. ElBaradei told the Board an increasing number of developing countries were requesting IAEA assistance in evaluating their energy needs and options. In many cases despite the acute need for energy that are central to these countries development the prospects for using nuclear energy have been hampered because the large size of nuclear plants makes them unsuitable for lower capacity electricity grids, he said. For this reason the IAEA has maintained a focus on the potential for innovative small and medium sized reactor design, and a few projects are moving toward implementation.