N-energy’s growth lacklustre: IAEA chief



N-energy’s growth lacklustre: IAEA chiefZee Research Group

Despite mounting public outcry over safety of nuclear plants, India’s trust in the nuclear energy option is official now. But by its own admission, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had said late last year that the growth of the nuclear energy globally had been lacklustre.

A few months before the Japan shock, in his annual report submitted in September last year to the Board of Governors, General Conference, IAEA director general Yukiya Amano admitted to the rather lacklustre performance of nuclear energy globally. He said, “The share of nuclear energy grew from just below 0.5% in 1970 to above 7% in the 1990s and declined to 5.7% by 2008.”
Further, he pointed out, “Over the past two years the contribution of nuclear generation to world electricity production has declined from 15% to less than 14%, largely due to a rise in total electricity generation worldwide without an increase of nuclear generation.”

The IAEA director general’s report (http://www.iaea.org/About/Policy/GC/GC54/GC54InfDocuments/English/gc54inf-5_en.pdf) further evidenced the lack of any particular growth pattern in usage of nuclear energy worldwide. “In western Europe, nuclear generated electricity accounts for almost 27% of total electricity. In North America and Eastern Europe, it is approximately 18%, whereas in Africa and Latin America it is 2.1% and 2.4%, respectively. In the Far East, nuclear energy accounts for 10% of electricity generation; in the Middle East and South Asia it accounts for 1%,” he conceded.
On the critical issue of training and human development, the report admitted to shortage of experienced personnel to man nuclear energy plants. It estimated that in 2009 all nuclear power plants in operation worldwide continued to employ more than 250,000 people. “About three quarters of all reactors in operation today are over 20 years old, and one quarter is over 30 years old. The generation that constructed and operated these plants has either already retired or will soon. Many of the organizations that are licensed to operate these plants also have projects underway or under consideration to build new units, and are facing shortages of experienced personnel and loss of knowledge as they look to replace retiring staff for their existing fleet while at the same time staffing new projects,” the report cautioned.

Commenting on the Indian situation, the DG’s report said the next step foresaw the construction and commercial operation by 2023 of six additional mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuelled PFBR-type reactors (a twin unit at Kalpakkam and four 500 MW(e) reactors at a new site to be determined). It noted that the first criticality of the 500 MW(e) PFBR in Kalpakkam, indigenously designed by the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) and constructed by BHAVINI, is planned by 2011. Beyond 2020, the Indian national strategy is centred on high breeding gain ~1000 MW(e) capacity reactors, and on the collocation of multi-unit energy parks with fuel cycle facilities based on pyro-chemical reprocessing technology, the report outlined.