SINGAPORE, April 10 (UPI) -- Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster may delay the growth of the world nuclear energy market by a decade but will not reverse it, a nuclear power expert says.
Alan McDonald, program coordinator of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made the prediction Wednesday at the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference in Singapore, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
The IAEA had been constantly revising its growth forecasts upward for the nuclear energy industry for several years before the Fukushima incident in March 2011, but cut those forecasts substantially after the incident, McDonald said.
The Fukushima accident "has effectively delayed projected growth by 10 years, with the capacity that was projected for 2020 before the accident now being projected for 2030," he said.
Despite the revised forecast, the installed capacity is still projected to grow by 25 percent to 100 percent by 2030, he added.
There were 433 nuclear reactors in operation around the world as of mid-2012, with 104 in the United States, 58 in France, 50 in Japan, 33 in Russia and 23 in South Korea, the World Nuclear Association reported.
Asia is now the fastest-growing market for nuclear energy, with China taking the lead.
Chinese nuclear experts said people now have a more thorough and objective understanding of Fukushima two years after the incident.
"The incident, which happened under extreme conditions, should not stop us from exploring the option of nuclear energy in the long run," said Tian Jiashu, deputy chief engineer of China National Nuclear Corp.
In contrast, Japan has moved away from its use of nuclear power, shutting down many facilities amid debate over when, or even if, they will ever be reactivated.
In Europe, both German and Italy have also reconsidered their use of nuclear power.
France, on the other hand, which depends on atomic power for 70 percent of its electricity, has so far not made any moves to cut back, although its aging nuclear infrastructure may force some hard decisions in the future.