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Energy to 2050, Scenarios for a Sustainable Future, 2003

Energy to 2050, Scenarios for a Sustainable Future, 2003


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Published by: i-people on Mar 28, 2008
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The other component of the non-carbon emitting energy supply is nuclear.
This technology, according to IEA data and following the IEA accounting
convention for energy balances, presently supplies 6.9% of world TPES11

17% of world electric power. The shares are higher for OECD countries
(respectively 11% and 23%), and much lower for developing countries
(respectively 2.4% and 6.1%). Figures are different if we follow the
convention used by IIASA12

in the elaboration of its A1T scenario (which


3.A Normative Scenario to 2050: the SD Vision Scenario

11.See footnote 9 in this chapter for the differences between the various conventions for accounting
for nuclear output
12.See footnote 9 in this chapter.

forms the basis of the SD Vision scenario). Using that methodology, the share
of nuclear is equal to about 2% of world TPES, 3.7% of TPES in the OECD
and 0.6% of TPES in the developing world. In the discussion that follows it
should be clear that figures use the IIASA convention.

Thus, increasing the share of nuclear power in a growing TPES, as indicated
in the SD Vision scenario (i.e. from 2 to 11.3%, following the latter
convention), would imply a fourteen-fold increase in nuclear energy
production worldwide, a substantial increase by any standard. Table 2 shows
that this would require a rate of growth of nuclear power supply above
3.5% per year over the entire period, and for some decades as high as
8%. These may seem impossibly high compared to the rate of growth
experienced in the decade from 1990 to 2000 (during which it was
2.5%), however, looking back to the rate of growth of 11.5% experienced
from 1971 to 2000 these rates seem much less out of reach.

This is not to downplay the extent of the effort required, especially in the
current public opinion context for nuclear energy. Thus, in the scenario
described, the resumption of nuclear plant construction would start at a
more moderate pace for the two decades from 2020 to 2040. To allow for
such a growth in nuclear power the biggest problem is that of reducing the
risks – and perceived risks -- stemming from nuclear accidents (both
involuntary and voluntary, e.g. terrorism), from long-term radioactive waste
storage and from nuclear weapons proliferation. These perceived risks may,
in particular, preclude the international community help developing
countries face the high up-front costs of nuclear power – as they currently
prevent nuclear projects in the Clean Development Mechanism of the
Kyoto Protocol.

It may prove difficult for the public in several OECD countries to accept
nuclear plants in the landscape at a scale necessary for this energy source
to achieve a market share of 21% by 2050. This would require a more than
seven-fold increase in output – and an increase approximately of the same
magnitude in power generation capacity. While this would not bring the
average country to the level of France (where nuclear energy currently
represents 42% of TPES), it might be unacceptable in many countries. Even
if objections were overcome by a change in public attitudes, the problem
of long term disposal of radioactive material would remain serious: clearly
such an ambitious nuclear renaissance plans would require higher levels of
safety and significantly lower levels of radioactive waste production. New
concepts and new reactor designs would have to be commercially available
no later than 2025 if nuclear energy is to grow to the level envisaged.


3.A Normative Scenario to 2050: the SD Vision Scenario

A number of new reactor designs are currently being studied that address
some of the concerns just mentioned. However a current opinion among
nuclear scientists is that R&D efforts underway on innovative nuclear
reactors receive a fraction of the funding supplied between 1950s and
1970 to develop the current generation of nuclear reactors. Nuclear R&D
expenditures today are aimed primarily at maintaining and enhancing the
performance of operating reactors. Assuming that low investment will
continue, commercial availability for most of the design being developed
could require 10 to 15 years or longer (see IEA/NEA/IAEA, 2002, p. 81).
In a context of increasingly privatised and liberalised markets this type of
trend may well continue, hence government support in the R&D area may
be required again if the goals set in the SD Vision scenario are to be

The security and safety concerns of the Western world have so far greatly
limited the potential expansion of electricity supply from nuclear
technology in the OECD and brought to a standstill many large
construction programmes started after the first oil price shock in 1973.
Increasing doubts about the peaceful use of new nuclear programmes in
some developing countries could lead to a slow-down in such programmes
(although international monitoring schemes may alleviate such concerns).
These issues exacerbate the rates of technology transfer, adding to the
problem of the massive investments, and the build-up of an adequate
technological capability that would be required in many developing
countries to achieve by 2050 the output levels envisaged in the SD Vision
scenario. Thus, while a global market share of 11.3% is technicallypossible,
it might be economically challenging even in a high growth world.

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