Jacques Percebois Emeritus Professor at Montpellier University
Director of the Energy Economics and Law Research Center (CREDEN)
"Global Competition is Becoming Sharper in the Nuclear Industry"
Although the topic was carefully avoided during the COP21 debates, one thing is certain: nuclear powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... cannot be left out if the world is serious about fighting against global warmingGlobal warming, also called planetary warming or climate change.... The need to promote low-carbon energy sources means that nuclear power has to be part of the package alongside renewables. It's not an either/or situation.
Indeed, even though it may have been kept relatively quiet in Paris, nuclear power is often a non-negligible component in the nationally determined contributions, notably for the two largest greenhouse-gas emitters: China and the United States. China has 30 nuclear reactors in operation, 25 under construction and 114 more on the drawing board for 2030. The United States, which has the world's largest installed base with some 100 plants in operation, is getting back into nuclear power with five new plants under construction. Russia, India and South Korea also rely heavily on nuclear power. Japan is looking cautiously at re-starting its industry after the trauma of Fukushima. And many emerging markets and oil-producing nations are interested, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, several Latin American countries and newcomers like Vietnam. In Eastern Europe, Bulgaria has two reactors under construction, while Poland and the Czech Republic have plans in the works. Missing from the picture is Western Europe, with the exception of two 1,600 MW EPR reactors under construction in France and Finland and the two Hinkley Point projects in the United Kingdom.
In all, 75 nuclear power plants are currently being built around the world. Nuclear power's share in the global electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... mix (currently 12-13%) should rise, albeit slowly, as the competition from natural gas and coalCoal is ranked by its degree of transformation or maturity, increasing in carbon content from... remains strong.
France's Place in the Standings
Competition is becoming sharper with all of these promising markets. Russia's ROSATOM is clearly in first place for new power plant contract wins since 2010. Russia provides a turnkey package with the reactor and fuelFuel is any solid, liquid or gaseous substance or material that can be combined with an oxidant..., which it recovers after use. Japanese and American companies come next, working together, followed by South Korean firms. And Chinese manufacturers are beginning to look beyond their borders.
The offer will most likely diversify, with potential demand for 1,000 MW reactors (or smaller) that are better suited to more modest power grids in developing nations. So far, there is not much to choose from in this segment.
France should not miss out on the opportunity to serve these promising markets, especially since it had a head start over its rivals. The country's nuclear industry, which has just reorganized into two separate businesses – reactors and fuel – has lost ground in power plant construction but remains well placed in the fuel cycle (uraniumGray, very dense radioactive metal that is relatively abundant in the Earth's crust and oceans in the form of UO2... extraction, enrichment and reprocessing).
It is also carving out a position in the huge emerging market for dismantling aging reactors and remediating decommissioned sites. This type of work is of interest to both Areva and EDF, as well as to groups like Veolia, providing undeniable prospects for the industry.
Jacques Percebois, Doctor in Economic Sciences, is Emeritus Professor at Montpellier University and Director of the Energy Economics and Law Research Center (CREDEN). In 2011, he was asked to lead a panel with Claude Mandil, the former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA)An independent, intergovernmental organization founded within the framework of the OECD..., that produced a report entitled "Energies 2015", an overview of different possible energy scenarios for France in the next three decades.