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Nuclear Power: How Much More?

Sharon Squassoni is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace focusing on nuclear nonproliferation and national security.

Mar 25, 2009
AUTHOR: Sharon Squassoni
Nuclear Power-How Much More (PDF) 2,073.13 KB

Nuclear Power: How Much More?

Enthusiasm for nuclear energy has surged in the last few years, prompting industry leaders to talk of a nuclear renaissance. Energy security and climate change top the list of reasons that nuclear power proponents give to pursue nuclear energy. Nuclear energy has been rebranded as clean, green and secure, and as a result, more than 27 nations since 2005 have declared they will install nuclear power for the first time. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency’s Nuclear Energy Outlook 2008 suggests the world could be building 54 reactors per year in the coming decades to meet all these challenges.

It is unlikely that nuclear energy will grow that much and that quickly, but it seems clear that the distribution of nuclear power across the globe is about to expand. [1] The interest in nuclear power by more than two dozen additional states is perhaps the most notable element of the much-heralded “nuclear revival.” Half of these are developing countries. Some – such as Turkey, Philippines and Egypt – had abandoned programs in the past, while others, like Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, are considering nuclear power for the first time. If all these states follow through on their plans, the number of states with nuclear reactors could double.

Nuclear power reactors currently operate in 31 countries, with a total capacity of about 371 Gigawatts (GWe) (See Figure 1). Three countries -- the U.S., France and Japan – host more than half of global reactor capacity. Seven developing nations have nuclear power – Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Pakistan, South Africa, and Taiwan. Figures 2 and 3 show where uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing plants are located. Enrichment plants now operate in eleven countries, providing 50 million separative work units (SWU); spent fuel is reprocessed in five countries. No country yet has an opened a geologic waste site.

Figure 1. Reactor Capacities, 2008 (Gigawatts Electric, GWe)

Reactor Capacities, 2008

Figure 2. Location of Commercial Uranium Enrichment, 2008

Location of Commercial Uranium Enrichment, 2008

Figure 3. Location of Commercial Reprocessing of Spent Fuel, 2008

Location of Commercial Reprocessing of Spent Fuel, 2008

Scenario I: “Business as Usual” Growth

Estimating even “business as usual” growth out to 2030 presents some challenges. For example, will Germany and Sweden go through with phasing out nuclear power or rethink their decisions? [2] How long can the lives of older nuclear power plants be extended? According to the International Energy Agency, without significant policy changes, nuclear energy can be expected to grow to 415 GW by 2030, or.7% annually, for a total increase of 15% by 2030. [3] This.7% annual growth compares to the average total electricity generation growth of 2.7% annually, and amounts to an annual build rate of 3 reactors per year worldwide. At this rate, nuclear energy would actually decline from a 16% market share to 10% as electricity demand increases. In this business-as-usual projection, no big policy changes would be implemented, carbon emissions would rise and nuclear energy’s share of electricity generation would decline.

The figure below (Figure 4) shows the first scenario of moderate, or “business as usual” growth in nuclear power, using U.S. Energy Information Administration (U.S. EIA) figures. The U.S. EIA estimates 482 GWe capacity by 2030, assuming fewer retirements of older reactors in Europe. [4] In general, EIA projections factor in GDP growth, energy demand, end-use sector, and electricity supply, estimating the contribution that nuclear energy will make as a percentage of the total electricity supply. This percentage is estimated to stay even or rise slightly.

In some countries, even estimating that nuclear energy’s market share of electricity supply will stay level may be optimistic. For example, in the United States, a 1.5% rise in electricity demand each year would require 50 new nuclear power plants to be built by 2025, assuming nuclear energy maintained its 19% electricity generation share. (It would also require building 261 coal-fired plants, 279 natural-gas fired plants and 73 renewable projects). [5] Given that only 4 to 8 new plants might begin operation by 2015, this would require bringing 42 to 48 new plants on line in the ten years between 2015 and 2025. While it is not impossible, it is not very likely.

Figure 4. Expansion in Global Reactor Capacity, Scenario I

Expansion in Global Reactor Capacity, Scenario I

Scenario II: Wildly Optimistic Growth

The second scenario for growth, which might be termed the “wildly optimistic” scenario, relies on countries’ stated plans for developing nuclear energy. It is wildly optimistic in terms of both timing and the number of states that may develop nuclear power. Country statements were taken literally. These do not necessarily correlate to any measurable indicators (such as GDP growth or electricity demand, etc.) and in some cases, the plans are unlikely to materialize. Scenario II figures, depicted in Figure 5 below, should be regarded not as projections, but as a “wish list” for many countries.

Some countries have modeled GDP growth, energy demand and supply, etc. Some have stated goals for specific electricity supplies. For example, the United Arab Emirates has articulated a goal of diversifying its electricity production from 100% reliance on oil and natural gas to 30% liquid fossil fuels (oil and natural gas), 30% nuclear energy and 30% renewables. The head of Brazil’s nuclear association has stated that Brazil should diversify at least 30% of electricity generation equally into nuclear energy, natural gas, and biomass (Brazil now relies for 92% of its electricity on hydroelectric power). But for now, Brazil is focusing on four new nuclear power plants by 2014.

Figure 5. Expansion in Global Reactor Capacity According to States’ Plans

Expansion in Global Reactor Capacity According to States’ Plans

Often, countries’ plans are predicated on buying one or two reactors, which would dictate how much capacity they purchase. Most of the reactors marketed today are 1000 MWe to 1600 MWe, despite the fact that some of these countries would be better served by much smaller reactors that would not introduce instability into their relatively small transmission grids. Some countries have not specified their plans beyond a desire to purchase nuclear power capacity. Whereas figure 5 shows countries that have specified particular reactor capacities out to 2030, additional countries have articulated a need or desire for nuclear energy that have not yet been so specific. These are listed in the appendix to this report and shown in figure 6 below. Some of these countries (shown with darker shading) have more detailed plans than others.

Figure 6. Proposed New Nuclear States, 2008

Proposed New Nuclear States, 2008

According to the U.S. State Department, a dozen countries are “giving serious consideration to nuclear power in the next ten years.” [6] Of this dozen, several have plans to build nuclear reactors that do not now have nuclear power, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Vietnam. Turkey is the furthest along in its plans, according to the IAEA. Nineteen countries with longer term plans, according to the State Department, include Algeria, Chile, Georgia, Ghana, Jordan, Libya, Malaysia, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. [7]

If these states are serious about their plans, nuclear energy capacity could double by 2030. And if global climate change concerns were to drive nuclear expansion, the capacity would reach 1 Terawatt (or almost triple the current capacity). A more conservative estimate is that nuclear capacity could increase to 525 GW by 2030 with significant policy support. This equates roughly with the IEA’s Alternative Policy Scenario from the World Energy Outlook 2006, which assumes that climate change policies dating from 2006 would be implemented.

One of the key unknowns is how swiftly developing countries that are considering nuclear power for the first time will be able to implement their plans for nuclear power. The International Atomic Energy Agency is actively providing guidance, review and support to help them build the infrastructure for nuclear energy, and has identified nineteen issues that should be addressed in building this infrastructure. The IAEA has stressed that nuclear energy is a 100-year commitment, from development to decommissioning. [8] Most developing countries would need to import reactors and, possibly, the staff to operate them. Potential suppliers will choose their business opportunities according to certainty of payment, volume of work, political stability and security, among other criteria.

There will undoubtedly be a time-lag between decisions to go nuclear and reactors coming on-line. The IAEA estimates about fifteen years will elapse between a policy decision to develop nuclear power and the operation of a first plant. [9] By 2020, the IAEA estimates that power plant construction could begin in eight countries, and possibly in fifteen more by 2030. [10] Although there is growing recognition that many of these developing countries would be better served by small and medium-sized reactors (from 300 MWe to 700 MWe) because of the capacities of their electrical grids, there will be few available options for states to purchase smaller reactors in that timeframe. Westinghouse has built 600 MWe reactors in the past and has licensed the AP-600, but officials say there are no plans to market it. China has exported 300 MWe reactors, and India has built smaller reactors (from 160 MWe to 500 MWe) and has expressed the desire to get into the export market. Unfortunately, Indian reactors could pose greater proliferation risks for a variety of reasons. [11] In the meantime, most states will likely choose the reactors currently being marketed, which range predominantly from 1000 MWe to 1600 MWe.

Part of the challenge for many states will be adhering to international standards and conventions that have evolved over time. With no current nuclear capacity, many of these states would have had no reason to join nuclear-related conventions, or even sign comprehensive nuclear safeguards agreements. Table 1. below shows the status of states that have declared an interest in nuclear power and certain nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation commitments.

Table 1. States with an Interest in Nuclear Power: Status on Nuclear Safety, Security and Nonproliferation




Safeguards CSA AP

Safety CNS

Security CPPNM


Liability (Vienna Convention or CSC)

Turkey 3-4? 2014 Y Y Y Y N N
Bangladesh 2 2015 Y Y Y Y N N
Jordan .5 2015 SQP Y N N N N
Egypt 1 2015 Y N Y N N VC
Morocco ? 2016 Y N N Y Y VC*
Azerbaijan 1   Y Y N Y N N
Belarus 4 2016 Y N Y Y Y VC
Indonesia 6 2016 Y Y Y Y N CSC *
Iran 6 2016 Y N N N N N
UAE 3 2017 SQP Y N Y N N
Vietnam 8 2020 Y N N N N N
Thailand 4 2020 Y N N N N N
Israel 1   N N N Y N VC*
Saudi Arabia ?   SQP N N N N N
Oman ?   N N N Y N N
Qatar ?   SQP N N Y N N
Bahrain ?   SQP N N N N N
Kuwait ?   SQP Y Y Y N N
Kazakhstan .6 2025 Y Y N Y N N
Nigeria 4 2025 Y Y Y Y Y VC
Algeria 5? 2027 Y N Y Y N N
Ghana 1 2030 Y Y N Y N N
Tunisia .5 2030 Y N Y Y N N
Yemen ? 2030 SQP N N Y N N
Philippines   2050 Y N N Y N VC, CSC*
Libya 1 2050 Y Y N Y N N
Venezuela 4? 2050 Y N N N N N
Malaysia   2050 Y N N N N N

*= signed, not ratified. ** = Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (INFCIRC/546)

CSA = Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (INFCIRC/153)
AP = Additional Protocol (INFCIRC/540
CNS = Convention on Nuclear Safety
CPPNM = Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material
CSC = Convention on Supplementary Compensation

Although signing conventions is an important step toward preparing for nuclear power, the real tests of responsibility may offer less tangible evidence of compliance. For example, how will vendors, regulatory agencies and international institutions assess the maturity of nuclear safety cultures? How will states develop safety and security cultures that complement each other? Is the regulatory authority truly independent? Many of the critical requirements will take years to develop fully.

Scenario III: Major Growth for Climate Change?

The amount of nuclear capacity required to make a signification contribution to global climate change mitigation is so large that it would inevitably be widely distributed across the globe. Such a distribution would have particular implications for nuclear proliferation. However, projected distributions of nuclear energy out to 2050 are extremely speculative. The industry itself does not engage in such projections, and countries that set nuclear energy production goals have a history of widely missing long-range targets, such as China and India. The discussion below considers a hypothetical distribution of nuclear energy for 2050, based on the 2003 MIT Study. [12]

Scenario III, shown in Figure 7, uses the “High 2050” scenario in Appendix 2 (“Global Electricity Demand and the Nuclear Power Growth Scenario”) of the 2003 MIT study, The Future of Nuclear Power. Although this is not a distribution designed to achieve optimal CO2 reductions, it is expansion at a level significant enough (1500 GWe) to have an effect on CO2 emissions. This would mean a fourfold increase from current reactor capacity.

The MIT study used an underlying assumption that the developed countries would continue with a modest annual increase in per capita electricity use and the developing countries would move to the 4000 kWh per person per year benchmark if at all feasible (the 4000 kWh benchmark being the dividing line between developed and advanced countries). Electricity demand was then pegged to estimated population growth. Finally, it was assumed that nuclear energy would retain or increase its current share of electricity generation. The least-off developing countries were assumed in the MIT study not to have the wherewithal for nuclear energy. It should be noted that MIT’s 2050 projection was “an attempt to understand what the distribution of nuclear power deployment would be if robust growth were realized, perhaps driven by a broad commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a concurrent resolution of the various challenges confronting nuclear power’s acceptance in various countries.” A few countries that the MIT High 2050 case included but are not included here are countries that currently have laws restricting nuclear energy, such as Austria.

Figure 7. Illustrative Expansion to 1500 GWe to Reduce Carbon Emissions

Illustrative Expansion to 1500 GWe to Reduce Carbon Emissions  

Implications for Uranium Enrichment

A fourfold expansion of nuclear energy would entail significant new production requirements for uranium enrichment as shown in Figure 8 and possibly, reprocessing. The MIT study anticipated that 54 states would have reactor capacities that could possibly justify indigenous uranium enrichment. If a capability of 10 GWe is considered the threshold at which indigenous enrichment becomes cost-effective, more than 15 additional states could find it advantageous to engage in uranium enrichment.

Enrichment Implicationsof Reactor Capacity Growth

Figure 9 depicts what the geographic distribution of enrichment capacity might look like, based on the development of 10 GWe or more of reactor capacity. Of course, some states – such as Australia or Kazakhstan – might opt to enrich uranium regardless of domestic nuclear energy capacity, choosing to add value to their own uranium exports. In addition, states may choose to take the path of the UAE, which has formally renounced domestic enrichment and reprocessing in its domestic law, despite aspiring to reach 10 GWe of capacity. Ultimately, these decisions lie very much in the political realm, and can be reversed.

Figure 9. Illustrative Uranium Enrichment Expansion out to 2050

Illustrative Uranium Enrichment Expansion out to 2050

Implications for Proliferation

Proliferation experts generally fall into two camps – those that do not consider power reactors a cause for proliferation concern but focus on the sensitive aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and those that are concerned about the entire fuel cycle. Advocates of nuclear energy point out that most states that have developed nuclear weapons have used dedicated production or research reactors rather than power reactors to produce their fissile material [13]; others point to the potential for a state to use peaceful nuclear power to further a clandestine weapons program, either through technology transfer, hiding clandestine activities within a peaceful nuclear fuel cycle or diverting lightly irradiated fuel to be further enriched. Regardless of one’s views on the proliferation risks of power reactors, the recent surge of enthusiasm for nuclear energy poses several proliferation risks.

First, recent enthusiasm is not limited just to power reactors. On the enrichment side, President Bush’s 2004 initiative to limit capabilities to current technology holders failed, not just in strategy but also in tactics. For example, Argentina, Canada, and South Africa have all expressed an interest in keeping their enrichment options open. Brazil, which is commissioning a new centrifuge enrichment plant at Resende, will likely produce more low-enriched uranium than is needed for its own consumption by 2015. By and large, these countries do not produce nuclear energy on at scale large enough to make domestic enrichment capability economic. [14] However, they have keen national interests in maintaining their right to enrich.

Faced with allied objections to restricting future options, the Bush Administration folded. This is partly the reason for the impasse at the NSG on further detailed criteria restricting enrichment and reprocessing. A perception of the U.S. approach as discriminatory could open the door to further challenges. Even if piecemeal efforts to limit the number of states with uranium-enrichment or spent fuel reprocessing capabilities succeed, these could ultimately further erode the NPT by extending the existence of haves and have-nots from nuclear weapons into the nuclear fuel cycle. In the short term, efforts to limit expansion could slow some states’ implementation of the safeguards-strengthening measures in the 1997 Model Additional Protocol. In the long term, other decisions to strengthen the NPT could be jeopardized.

On the reprocessing end, the United States has recently embraced spent fuel reprocessing at home and abroad. From the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) to nuclear cooperation with India, Bush administration policies supported reprocessing. This is a complete reversal from the policies adopted in the mid-1970s not to encourage the use of plutonium in the civilian fuel cycle. A nuclear renaissance that embraces reprocessing as necessary to reduce spent fuel accumulation could result in more plutonium in transit, providing more potential targets for diversion. A renaissance that includes widespread installation of fast reactors would similarly increase targets for diversion.

Although GNEP advocates stress that the kind of spent fuel “conditioning” they favor would not result in the separation of plutonium, there are few assurances thus far that new techniques are any more proliferation-resistant than PUREX. As opponents like to point out, no future fuel conditioning technique in the United States will be more proliferation resistant than storing spent fuel. And while most countries are probably interested in having someone else solve the problem either of spent fuel storage or high-level waste storage, no commercial reprocessing service currently will store high-level waste. Neither the United States, nor Russia, nor France has committed to taking back spent fuel under GNEP.

A further question is whether the next generation of reactors will be more or less proliferation-resistant than existing reactors. As of December 2002, the Generation IV Forum had not yet adopted a standard methodology for evaluating proliferation resistance and physical protection for the six systems under consideration. In addition, there have been a few reports that India is considering exporting its Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors. India may not be the only state in a second tier of suppliers that might be interested in exporting reactors, injecting some uncertainty into assessments.

Beyond the technical realm, there are very real political questions about widespread diffusion of civilian nuclear power. Would new nuclear states would raise proliferation concerns by virtue of their geographic location, the existence of terrorist groups on their soil, or other sources of political instability? Would expanded nuclear infrastructure in Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Vietnam, and the GCC countries lead their neighbors to worry about and respond to the possibility that these countries will develop weapons programs?

The expansion of nuclear power would also have practical consequences for the nuclear nonproliferation regime. Additional facilities will place additional safeguards requirements on IAEA inspectors It is unclear how the IAEA will meet these requirements – will these mean more inspection days or will other approaches be used under the “integrated safeguards” program? Although reactors themselves require relatively few inspection days, there will be significant work in helping prepare new nuclear states for nuclear power programs. Already, the IAEA has conducted workshops on infrastructure requirements, including energy needs and planning considerations; nuclear security and safeguards; physical infrastructure; current and future reactor technology; experience in developing nuclear programs; human resource requirements; and public perceptions. States must also develop their states systems of accounting and control.

A nuclear expansion, in particular, that results in more states with bulk-handling facilities (enrichment and reprocessing) could place significant strain on the IAEA and the inspections system. Recent experience suggest that current methods of inspection cannot provide timely detection. The fact that the IAEA’s goals for timely detection are clearly longer than material conversion times – that is, the time it would take for a proliferator to produce finished metal shapes – is a big concern. The largest enrichment and reprocessing plants under safeguards now are under EURATOM safeguards; the IAEA’s role in verifying material balances in those plants is limited by the IAEA-EURATOM agreement. The only experience in safeguarding commercial-scale enrichment and reprocessing plants outside of EURATOM in a non-nuclear-weapon state is in Japan, where incidents with significant material losses have raised questions. British commercial reprocessing at the THORP facility also has produced recurring reports of significant materials losses.

Perhaps the largest question about a nuclear expansion is whether or not planned technological developments will outpace nonproliferation initiatives, such as fuel supply assurances and multinational fuel-cycle centers, voluntary export guidelines, and further restrictions within the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Criticism of the U.S. GNEP program had been aimed in part at the aggressive timeline for technology demonstration of advanced reprocessing, in contrast to developments more closely tied to nonproliferation objectives, such as supporting more proliferation-resistant reactors with sealed fuel cores that would limit handling of fuel. Already, efforts to manage expansion of the front and back ends of the fuel cycle, whether nuclear fuel assurances, fuel banks, or fuel leasing projects, have abandoned any concepts of formal restraints in favor of incentives. It is too soon to tell how compelling those incentives will be.

Finally, although there is disagreement among experts about the proliferation potential of light water reactors, it is clear that the proliferation potential of a country with no nuclear expertise is lower than that of a country with nuclear power and its associated infrastructure. The current encouraging climate for nuclear energy – new cooperation agreements between France and the UAE, Libya and Algeria, and between the United States and Turkey and Jordan, for a few – suggests that regardless of global climate change concerns, or whether or not a significant expansion occurs, some states in the Middle East will develop nuclear energy. It is not clear whether new nuclear reactors in the Middle East would result in new enrichment or reprocessing plants in the Middle East. In part, much depends on the outcome of negotiations with Iran on its enrichment capabilities. If states clearly renounce making nuclear fuel and allow sufficient wide- ranging inspections to verify such pledges, the proliferation implications could be significantly diminished. The hope is that this can be accomplished with the UAE.

Expansion: Real or Imagined?

The largest increases in nuclear capacity in the next 20-30 years undoubtedly will occur in Asia – China, Japan and India. These countries are building nuclear power plants now and anticipate continued high economic growth levels. Other countries could feel the pinch of the current financial crisis more acutely, dampening demand for electricity below anticipated levels.A major expansion of nuclear power across the board, is not a foregone conclusion. In addition, the traditional challenges besetting nuclear energy – cost, safety, waste, and proliferation – will likely continue to limit widespread growth. Government policies supporting nuclear energy in the future – as has been the case in the past -- would be necessary to make major expansion a reality.

For many states, cost is the first and most immediate obstacle to nuclear expansion. But in those states where there is heavy involvement by the government in electricity markets, supporting nuclear energy may be as simple as providing government funding or financing. Solutions to nuclear waste tend to be deferred into the future, but policies by major suppliers to take back spent fuel could provide some incentives for growth. In states seeking nuclear power for the first time, actions to develop what some have termed the “three Ss” – safeguards, safety, and security – could improve their attractiveness to nuclear vendors. In all countries, some limits on or costs attached to carbon dioxide emissions could help enhance the attractiveness of nuclear power, but these should also enhance the attractiveness of renewable sources of energy as well.

Appendix I for Mapping Global Nuclear Energy Expansion  

Description of Scenarios and Sources

The maps are based on estimates of nuclear power capacity under three different scenarios. The first is a “business as usual” projection for 2030 done by the Energy Information Administration. EIA nuclear energy projections are essentially done “off-line” – that is, the sophisticated computer model for estimating other sources of energy is not used for the nuclear case. This is partly because decisions about the retirement of reactors and new reactors, particularly in Western Europe, are difficult to model. In addition, the estimates are aggregated into regions, with just a few country-specific breakouts.

Scenario II is not a projection, but rather an estimate, based on official statements by countries, for which a variety of sources was used. Country statements were taken at face value and these do not necessarily correlate to any measurable indicators (such as GDP growth or electricity demand, etc.). In some cases, the plans are unlikely to materialize. Scenario II figures should be regarded not as projections, but as a “wish list” for many countries.

Scenario III seeks to estimate nuclear energy in 2050. It uses figures from the 2003 study by MIT, The Future of Nuclear Power, specifically, the “High 2050” scenario in Appendix 2: “Global Electricity Demand and the Nuclear Power Growth Scenario,” with some minor variations. The MIT study used an underlying assumption that the developed countries would continue with a modest annual increase in per capita electricity use and the developing countries would move to the 4000 kWh per person per year benchmark if at all feasible (the 4000 kWh benchmark being the dividing line between developed and advanced countries). Electricity demand was then pegged to estimated population growth. Finally, it was assumed that nuclear energy would retain or increase its current share of electricity generation. The least-off developing countries were assumed in the MIT study not to have wherewithal for nuclear energy. A final caveat in the MIT study is that the 2050 projection is “an attempt to understand what the distribution of nuclear power deployment would be if robust growth were realized, perhaps driven by a broad commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and a concurrent resolution of the various challenges confronting nuclear power’s acceptance in various countries.” A few countries that the MIT High 2050 case included but are not included here are those that have laws currently prohibiting nuclear energy, such as Austria.

A Few Caveats

There is a good reason why the EIA and IEA do not make projections out to 2050 – it is a highly uncertain undertaking. Some of the many uncertainties include input and construction costs, government support and reactor operation safety. As seen from experience since Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, plans for nuclear power plant construction can be put off indefinitely in the wake of accidents.

Explanatory Note for Reactor Data

All figures are rounded to the nearest integer and expressed in Gigawatts, electrical (GWe) (if less than 0.5 GWe, however, it has been rounded to 0.5). The organization of the data along OECD and non-OECD groupings reflects the availability of EIA projections under Scenario I. In particular, the EIA does not make projections for individual countries except where noted. Therefore, the countries are grouped by region.

In Scenario I, blank entries should not necessarily be equated with no nuclear capacity; unfortunately, the EIA does not always make individual country projections. The regional projections will include nuclear capacity for those countries that already have nuclear energy today.

In Scenarios II and III, blank entries do indicate no nuclear capacity or plans. There are several cases where a country has proposed power plants under Scenario II but no figure appears under Scenario III, because the MIT 2050 High Scenario did not anticipate any nuclear power development in the least developed countries, including Bangladesh, Ghana, Nigeria, and Yemen. Other states that the MIT study did not include but might build nuclear power by 2050 are the GCC states, Jordan, Tunisia and Chile.

In addition, there are several cases where a country has no current nuclear power plans, but the MIT study predicts nuclear power for them in 2050. These include: New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Philippines, and Venezuela. Several countries included in the 2050 MIT projections were not included in the maps or in the data below.

Finally, there are several “placeholder” slots, where countries have expressed plans for nuclear energy but there are no associated numbers of reactors or capacity. These include Syria (which announced it would like to generate 6% of its energy needs by 2020 with nuclear in a 2006 statement to IAEA) and Ghana (which told IAEA in 2006 it would like to introduce nuclear energy by 2020), among others.

Current (Orange Globes):
2008 nuclear power capacity

Scenario I (Blue Rings):
2030 – Data from Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2007, DOE/EIA-0484(2007)

Scenario II (Red Rings, Red Dots):
2030 – Proposed reactor capacities according to individual government statements. Sources are varied, but include World Nuclear Association, Nucleonics Week, and major trade press.

Scenario III (Green Rings, Green Dots):
2050 – MIT projection, new or expanded nuclear power capacity

OECD Orange Blue Red Green
Country Current Scenario I Scenario II Scenario III
Australia 0 0 0 10
Canada 13 17 19 62
Japan 48 60 66 91
Korea, S 18 32 27 37
Mexico 1 1 3 20
New Zealand 0 0   1
OECD Europe (see breakout below) 130 113 121 237
Turkey 0   5 9
USA 99 113 142 477
Regional Total 309 336 383 944


Non-OECD Europe/Eurasia Orange Blue Red Green
Country Current Scenario I Scenario II Scenario III
Non-OECD Europe (see breakout below) 19 23 48.5 25
Russia 22 42 44 52
Regional Total 41 65 92.5 77


Non-OECD Asia Orange Blue Red Green
Country Current Scenario I Scenario II Scenario III
Bangladesh 0   2 0
China 9 42 120 200
India 4 19 21 175
Indonesia 0   6 39
Korea, N 0   1 5
Malaysia 0     3
Pakistan 0.5   3 20
Philippines 0     9
Taiwan 5   7 16
Thailand 0   4 8
Vietnam 0   8 5
Regional Total 18.5 72 172 480


Middle East Orange Blue Red Green
Country Current Scenario I Scenario II Scenario III
Gulf Cooperation Council 0     0
Iran 0   6 22
Israel 0   1 2
Jordan 0     0
Syria 0     0
Yemen* 0   5 0
Regional Total 0 1 12 24


Africa Orange Blue Red Green
Country Current Scenario I Scenario II Scenario III
Algeria 0     5
Egypt 0   1 10
Ghana 0    1 0
Libya 0     1
Morocco 0     3
Namibia 0     0
Nigeria* 0   4 0
South Africa 2 3 27 15
Tunisia* 0   0.5 0
Regional Total 2 3 33.5 34


Central and South America Orange Blue Red Green
Country Current Scenario I Scenario II Scenario III
Argentina 1 2 3 10
Brazil 2 3 7 34
Chile 0     0
Venezuela 0     4
Regional Total 3 5 10 48

World Total

World Total 373.5 482 703 1607


Asterisks (*) depict countries that are not included in Maps VI or VII but have possible GWe figures for Scenario II. These Scenario II figures were not included in the map because nuclear planning for these countries is still in the early exploratory phase. The EIA has stated that the Africa region will produce 3 GWe of nuclear power by 2030. This table assumes this will be produced in South Africa. The country already produces nuclear power and does not face the barriers other African countries will face in developing a new nuclear power industry.

Breakouts of OECD Europe and non-OECD Europe

OECD Europe Orange Blue Red Green
Country Current Scenario I Scenario II Scenario III
Belgium 6   0 11
Czech Republic 3   6 3
Finland 3   5 8
France 63   67 68
Germany 20   0 49
Hungary 2   4 3
Italy 0     8
Netherlands 0.5   1 4
Norway 0     5
Poland 0   3 3
Portugal 0     1
Slovakia 2   5 3
Spain 7   7 18
Sweden 9   9 16
Switzerland 3   4 5
UK 11   10 32
Total 129.5  113 121 237


Non-OECD Europe Orange Blue Red Green
Country Current Scenario I Scenario II Scenario III
Albania 0     0
Armenia 0.5   1 1
Azerbaijan 0   1 1
Belarus 0   4 1
Bulgaria 2   4 3
Georgia 0     0
Kazakhstan 0   0.5 1
Kyrgyzstan 0     1
Lithuania 1   2 1
Romania 1   3 2
Slovenia 1   2 1
Turkmenistan 0     1
Ukraine 13   30 8
Uzbekistan 0     4
Total 18.5 23 47.5 25


Scenario I EIA projections are done primarily by region and blank spaces should not be considered to reflect no nuclear power. Please refer to the regional totals only in Scenario I. In Scenario II, blank spaces may indicate lack of data about number or capacity of reactors, even as countries have declared interest in nuclear power.

Enrichment Capacities (Millions of separative work units, or SWU) Orange Blue Red Green
Nuclear Plant/Country 2007 Scenario I Scenario II Scenario III
TENEX 22 25 25 66
EURODIF 10.8 7.5 7.5 30
URENCO 8.1 11 11 24
JNFL 1 1.5 1.5 4.5
CNNC 1 1 1 16
USEC 8 7.5 7.5 13.5
RESENDE 0.12 0.12 0.4 5
Argentina       0.5
Australia       6
Canada       9
Egypt       1
India       8
Indonesia       1
Iran     1 3
Jordan       1
Kazakhstan       6
Pakistan     8 8
South Africa     3 6
Taiwan       6
Ukraine     3 3

Scenario III figures are estimates based on whether a state is projected to have at least 10 GWe nuclear capacity in 2050 and has expressed an interest (even if tentative) in uranium enrichment. Although Australia is estimated to develop enrichment capacity, primarily for export, the election of Prime Minister Rudd appears to have slowed down this development.

[1] The full list is establishing a country’s national position, legal and regulatory frameworks, financing, safeguards, energy planning, nuclear waste, nuclear safety, stakeholder involvement, management, procurement, radiation protection, human resource development, security and physical protection, the nuclear fuel cycle, environmental protection, sites and support facilities, the electrical grid, and industrial involvement. See IAEA, Milestones in the Development of a National Infrastructure for Nuclear Power, available at

[2]. In fact, the World Nuclear Association, one of the most vigorous advocates of expanding nuclear power, estimates that the total amount of nuclear power operating capacity could contract by 2030 from its current level of 435 Gwe to 285 Gwe. See, The World Nuclear Association, The Global Fuel Market: Supply and Demand 2007-2030 ( London, UK: The World Nuclear Association, 2008.

[3] In February 2009, the Swedish government called for new nuclear power plants. Following a 1980s referendum, Sweden had decided to shut all 12 reactors down, but only succeeded in shutting down 2. The government’s plan must be approved by Parliament. See “Sweden Changes Course on Nuclear Power,” Associated Press, February 5, 2009.

[4] International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook2008 (Paris: OECD), p. 92.

[5] The IEA projection assumes 27 GW of reactors are retired in Europe. The EIA estimates 482 GWe for 2030, or an annual increase of 1.3%, but assumes planned phase-outs of nuclear power in some countries in Europe would be delayed. Note that EIA projections for nuclear energy are done “off-line” – that is, the sophisticated computer model for estimating other sources of energy is not used for the nuclear case. In addition, the estimates are aggregated into regions, with just a few country-specific breakouts. Further, retirements and the behavior of Western Europe are considered highly uncertain (“wildcards”) and so estimates on those tend to be more conservative.

[6] Brian Reilly, Principle Vice President, Bechtel, “Challenges of Construction Labor for New Builds,” presentation to Fourth Annual Platt’s Nuclear Energy Conference, February 5, 2008.

[7] U.S. State Department International Security Advisory Board, “Proliferation Implications of Global Expansion of Civilian Nuclear Power,” April 2008, available at

[8] The State Department report also included Australia in this category, but the list was prepared in 2007, before Australian elections put a Labor government in power that currently has no plans for nuclear power.

[9] See summary of Roles and Responsibilities of Vendor Countries and Countries Embarking on Nuclear Power Programmes to Ensure Long-Term Safety, a workshop organized by the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety in July 2008. Available at

[10] Akira Omoto, Direction, Division of Nuclear Power, IAEA, briefing on “IAEA support to infrastructure building in countries considering introduction of nuclear power,” 2008.

[11] India has built pressurized, heavy water-moderated reactors, based on Canada’s CANDU reactor design. Because these reactors do not need to be shut down to be refueled, these reactors can be easily optimized for producing weapons-grade plutonium. For the same reason, these reactors are difficult to monitor to detect military diversions. These reactors also can be fueled with natural uranium, which requires no enrichment As a result, these reactors and related technology are labeled as “sensitive nuclear technology” under U.S. nuclear nonproliferation law.

[12] MIT’s The Future of Nuclear Power: An Interdisciplinary MIT Study, (Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2003) made projections of per capita electricity growth rates, assuming states would place a priority on reaching the benchmark 4000 kWh per capita consumption level. Based on a pattern of electricity consumption, the study then estimated the proportion of nuclear power generating electricity, taking into account current nuclear power deployment, urbanization, stage of economic development, and energy resource base.

[13]. France, the UK, Russia, India, and the US, however, have used unsafeguarded reactors that were designed to produce power and weapons plutonium or tritium. The reactor types they have used include heavy water reactors, gas cooled reactors, RMBKs, the U.S. Hanford Reactor, and in the case of US production of tritium, LWRs. On these points, see Zia Mian, A.H. Nayyar,R. Rajaraman, and M.V. Ramana, “Fissile Materials in South Asia and the Implications of the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal,” Research Report No. 1, International Panel on Fissile Materials, September 2006; “ Walter Paterson, Nuclear Power, (London, UK: Penguin Books, 1977), pp. 49-55; Lawrence Scheinman, Atomic Energy Policy in France under the Fourth Republic (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1965), pp. 69, 93, 155; Aleander M. Dmitriev, “Converting Russian Plutonium Production Reactors to Civilian Use,” Science and Global Security, Volume 5, pp. 37-46; Arms Control Association, “Tritium Production Licenses Granted to Civilian Power Plants,” Arms Control Today, November 2002.

[14] One estimate is that indigenous centrifuge enrichment becomes cost effective at the capacity level of 1.5 million separative work units, an amount required by 10 1-gigawatt plants. Other estimates are higher, but as the price of uranium goes up, domestic production becomes more competitive with buying enrichment services on the open market. Even then, such an enrichment plant is unlikely to be competitive with larger suppliers such as Urenco.

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