Growth in the Nuclear Industry

Brian Hicks

Written By Brian Hicks

Posted December 11, 2013

Nuclear power has received a bad rap ever since Japan’s nuclear meltdown, but signs of recovery are looming within this sector.

Japan is still skittish over its nuclear capacity, and countries like Germany and France are seeking to slowly reduce nuclear power in favor of renewable energy. But Russia, China, and India will be the main countries behind nuclear growth. China is already home to some of the greatest nuclear projects in the world, with up to 30 plants either planned or being constructed.

nuclear plantAnd even Japan hasn’t given up. Though the nation is one of the reasons nuclear power has been trending downward, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is still dedicated to nuclear energy in order to reduce energy imports and reliance on fossil fuels. Since Japan does not have any other strong energy resources, it must still rely on nuclear reactors.

Other nations in East Asia are also looking to develop their nuclear capabilities through cooperative agreements. Japan, China, and South Korea are looking to form agreements that will allow the three nations to coordinate with each other through email regarding emergency preparedness drills and accident responses.

There will also be meetings and exchanges in ideas regarding safety enhancements. This is a monumental step considering the tensions between these three nations and ever-brewing fights over island rights and Word War Two history.

And it will encourage countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia, which are seeking to enhance their nuclear aspirations and will be looking to nations in the Far East and Europe as models.

Global Initiative

There is talk that the world may introduce a global watchdog agency that will allow greater coordination in the case of a nuclear emergency. There has been criticism that Japan’s nuclear industry is too isolated from the world community, and although some in Japan may want to deal with nuclear issues on their own, nuclear energy in Japan can affect the rest of the world, as evidenced in the case of contaminated water leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

Japan has taken steps after the disaster, forming the Nuclear Regulation Authority with over 500 employees. But this agency will need to make greater inroads with the international community.

One of the suggested global efforts includes a model similar to air traffic controls and monitoring. The use of black boxes in nuclear facilities will provide a buffer against potential accidents and allow operators to learn what went wrong should an accident occur.

The Russians and Israelis are already working together in an intended cooperation agreement where both nations will begin to exchange information in regards to radioactive material.

The regional cooperation you’re beginning to see will eventually form into one cohesive regulatory body where nuclear plants will benefit from idea exchanges from other nations. It is a great step in reducing potential accidents.

Nuclear Growth

You can expect to see greater growth in nuclear power in the future. As much as nations like France and South Korea may want to reduce nuclear power, they cannot afford to do so anytime soon.

The South Koreans had hoped to reduce their nuclear power by 40 percent by 2030, but they had to reduce that target to 29 percent by 2035. Several scandals have erupted over fraud within the nuclear sector, and there is still a fear over what happened as a result of the meltdown of Japan.

South Korea has 23 reactors online, which provide a third of the nation’s electricity. South Korea still heavily relies on imports abroad – particularly liquefied natural gas. Nuclear power is one of few domestic sources of energy keeping prices low and reducing expensive purchases abroad, and the nation cannot afford to strip away its nuclear aspirations just yet.

The French originally intended to cut nuclear power down to 75 percent, but like South Korea, they revised that goal to 50 percent. We have even heard assurances from French Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg that nuclear power will remain in France.

And nuclear companies have not settled down. EDF (PA: EDF) of France is constructing a nuclear plant in southern England, the first in Europe since the Fukushima meltdown, while Areva (PA: AREVA) is investing in China’s massive efforts to foster more nuclear power.

And the Middle Kingdom will be the country to watch out for as it constructions more nuclear power in order to reduce smog emissions. Chinese officials are in the process of reducing coal emissions by preventing new constructs in certain cities and turning to more clean energy sources like nuclear and natural gas.

If you’re worried nuclear power will not survive, then I refer you to Chernobyl. Chernobyl was one of the worst nuclear disasters in human history, but the world has moved on nevertheless.

Because of human error, nuclear mishaps will surely happen, and nuclear may once again face a downfall when that occurs. But as time goes by, people are not left with many clean-energy options when nuclear is stripped from the equation. And as technology improves, the likelihood of human error will be reduced all the more.

Don’t discount nuclear power from your energy investments. In particular, you may want to look toward uranium, as analysts are calling for prices to spike in the year ahead.


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