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IAEA: Fukushima slowed nuke growth

  |   Aug. 20, 2012 at 6:30 AM
VIENNA, Aug. 20 (UPI) -- The Fukushima Daiichi disaster slowed but didn't reverse the expansion of nuclear power in 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in Vienna.

The U.N. agency, releasing its annual report Friday, said its post-accident projections of global nuclear power capacity in 2030 were 7-8 percent lower than what was projected before the accident.

The IAEA said nuclear power generating capacity is expected to grow from the worldwide generating capacity of 369 gigawatts to 501 gigawatts in 2030 on the low end to 746 gigawatts on the high end.

"Nuclear power remains an important option for countries and interest in nuclear power remains high," the agency said.

"Of the countries without nuclear power that, before the Fukushima Daiichi accident, had strongly indicated their intention to proceed with a nuclear power program, a few cancelled or revised their plans, while others took a 'wait and see' approach, but most continued their programs to introduce nuclear power."

Nations now without nuclear power haven't let the Fukushima Daiichi accident derail their plans, the IAEA said. It projects between seven and 20 new countries will bring their first reactors online before 2030.

Some countries that have strongly committed to nuclear power have incorporated "lessons learned" from the Japanese accident into their plans.

These include Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, which made progress in 2011 working with vendors, and Belarus, which signed a contract with Russia for the construction of two reactors.

Bangladesh signed an intergovernmental agreement with the Russia for two 1,000-megawatt reactors and Vietnam signed a loan agreement with Russia for its first nuclear power plant.

At the end of 2011, there were 435 power reactors in operation -- some 2 percent less than at the beginning of the year. The reduction was due to the permanent retirement of 13 reactors, 12 of which were due to the Fukushima disaster, including eight in Germany.

In the agency's low projection, some 90 new plants would be built by 2030.

"Most of the growth will likely occur in countries that already have operating nuclear power plants, and member states in Asia as well as the Russian Federation are expected to be the centers of expansion," the report said.

Of the 64 new power reactors under construction at the end of 2011, 26 were in China, 10 were in Russia, six were in India and five were in South Korea.

On the other hand, Germany decided to phase out and discontinue the use of nuclear power, and others, such as Belgium, Italy and Switzerland, are re-evaluating their nuclear programs.

Meanwhile, several other countries, such as Austria, Denmark, Greece and New Zealand, continued to ban nuclear power.

The agency also found that uranium reserves -- recoverable at an affordable price of $130 per kilogram -- stood at 5.4 million tons, sufficient to supply nuclear power plants for 80 years. An additional 900,000 tons were available at higher extraction costs of $130-$260 per kilogram.

Production in Kazakhstan -- the world's largest producer of uranium -- increased 9 percent in 2011 after a jump of 27 percent in 2009 and 2010.

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