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26th Apr 2013
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Energy leaders’ nuclear uncertainty diminishing
Concerns over nuclear energy use have been eclipsed by energy price volatility, the global recession, political unrest and future climate frameworks as the top uncertainties for global energy leaders, according to the World Energy Council (WEC).
WEC’s 2013 World Energy Issues Monitor is its latest annual assessment of the issues impacting the global and regional energy sector based on the views of energy leaders. It identifies the key uncertainties while highlighting the areas where action is most required to enable the sustainable supply and use of energy. The report is based on a survey of some 36 issues (including macroeconomic risks, geopolitics, business environment as well as energy vision) by ministers, CEOs and energy experts from over 90 countries. The results were used to measure their feelings of uncertainty and the need for action on the various issues.
The study indicates that renewable energies and energy efficiency have remained dominant technologies requiring action. As well as being driven by climate policy, renewables are seen as contributing to diversity and security of supply. Unconventional fossil fuels – such as shale gas – are now firmly considered game changers that will impact the sector for decades to come. The WEC study found that further action is required to realise their potential.
The latest study notes that “concerns arising from the current depressed economic outlook have overtaken nuclear energy as one of the top critical issues. While nuclear energy continues to be closely observed and debated, its perceived uncertainty and impact have dropped to pre-Fukushima levels. This reflects the prudent re-evaluation of nuclear energy in many countries.”
Nuclear around the world
Following the March 2011 Fukushima accident, Japan idled all but two of its nuclear power reactors and has proposed a new energy policy that would phase out the use of nuclear within three decades. However, WEC notes that “recent signals from Japan suggest a re-evaluation of the role for nuclear in the country’s energy mix.” Germany and Switzerland have also taken actions to end their use of nuclear energy.
However WEC notes that interest in nuclear is growing in some areas. For example, it is picking up in UAE and Saudi Arabia “reflecting a growing acceptance that nuclear energy remains a valid alternative and strategically effective towards diversifying the potential future energy mix, where rapidly-growing domestic power demand has eaten into hydrocarbons available for export.”
Nuclear appears as “a more critical uncertainty” in North America as compared to the global level, WEC suggests, primarily because the region has a large fleet of ageing nuclear power plants. It notes that, even with 20-year life extensions, most existing plants will be retired by 2050.
WEC chairman Pierre Gadonneix: “With energy now topping the global agenda, our 2013 World Energy Issues Monitor clearly reveals that the critical issues identified by energy leaders are macroeconomic and geopolitical.” He added, “In particular, uncertainties surrounding climate framework reveal the strong desire of the energy sector to have clearer and more balanced governance. The survey also reveals the need to identify pragmatic, cost-effective, and technology-neutral policies.”
Source: World Nuclear News
Benchmarking the global nuclear industry 2012
Ernst and Young conducted a study based on a series of 50 interviews in 13 countries. Vendor companies, utilities, manufacturers of nuclear and conventional island equipment, national regulatory authorities and international agencies as well as scientific experts were amongst the interviewees.
To summarise, the report identifies challenges and the bargaining position of countries within the nuclear industry in the wake of the Japan Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. One outcome that has been of paramount importance to all is nuclear safety.
Decisions, changes and choices were to be made; Germany announced it would shut down all nuclear power plants by 2022.
However, the big players in the nuclear industry Russia, France, China, United States of America, Canada, Japan and South Korea have seen little disruption in commitment to providing nuclear power since the disaster:
– Russia continues to cover the whole nuclear industry value chain and maintains its leading position in the international market
– France has positioned itself to become the world leader in safety standards for nuclear power plant construction
– China is in a phase of rapid growth and reactor design capability with a view to expand its offering abroad
– USA are building at a slower pace, with key vendors focused on executing a sound commercial strategy that will increase market presence and participation
– Canada is at the same level as before the accident, but domestic orders are slowing
– Japan has analysed the security of its power plants and the standard code of operation. Construction of new units is not a topic for discussion at the moment
– South Korea is seen as the shining star of nuclear. Implementation of little change in technology and attitudes toward nuclear energy have be observed since the Fukushima accident
Emerging nuclear industry contributors South Korea, South Africa, Canada, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and India continue to serve the industry by diversifying activity and reaping the demand for new construction, plant upgrades and decommissioning.
Such countries have much to offer. However, hurdles are also present and the right strategic decisions are needed to ensure they gain credibility within the nuclear market.
Challenges, ambitions, costs, politics and technology are some of the topics discussed. All of which are apparent in each country and providing drivers for success or failure.
This is especially the case for countries that are beginning their journey and challenging the top players by showcasing their complete lifecycle solutions.
The study conducted also identifies the way in which each country distinguishes itself and remains competitive in the nuclear arena. Due to growth in the economy the Middle East and Asia may seek to adopt a broader approach to nuclear activity and mature nuclear countries will need to direct efforts into maintenance, upgrades and decommissioning.
The key theme that comes out of the Ernst & Young report is evolution. Opportunities within the nuclear market are visible; each country despite its size is cleverly marking their territory. Competition in the nuclear industry remains tough. Suppliers and clients have to change their tactics, adapt to changes in the economy, and prioritise the need for safety and perceptions of the nuclear industry.