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The future of the nuclear industry reconsidered: Risks, uncertainties, and continued promise

  • Kessides, Ioannis N.

Skeptics point out, with some justification, that the nuclear industry's prospects were dimmed by escalating costs long before Fukushima. If history is any guide, one direct consequence of the calamity in Japan will be more stringent safety requirements and regulatory delays that will inevitably increase the costs of nuclear power and further undermine its economic viability. For nuclear power to play a major role in meeting the future global energy needs and mitigating the threat of climate change, the hazards of another Fukushima and the construction delays and costs escalation that have plagued the industry will have to be substantially reduced. One promising direction for nuclear development might be to downsize reactors from the gigawatt scale to less-complex smaller units that are more affordable. Small modular reactors (SMRs) are scalable nuclear power plant designs that promise to reduce investment risks through incremental capacity expansion; become more standardized and reduce costs through accelerated learning effects; and address concerns about catastrophic events, since they contain substantially smaller radioactive inventory. Given their lower capital requirements and small size, which makes them suitable for small electric grids, SMRs can more effectively address the energy needs of small developing countries.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Energy Policy.

Volume (Year): 48 (2012)
Issue (Month): C ()
Pages: 185-208

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Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:48:y:2012:i:c:p:185-208
DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2012.05.008
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/enpol

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  1. Ioannis N. Kessides, 2010. "Nuclear Power and Sustainable Energy Policy: Promises and Perils," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 25(2), pages 323-362, August.
  2. McCabe, Mark J, 1996. "Principals, Agents, and the Learning Curve: The Case of Steam-Electric Power Plant Design and Construction," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(4), pages 357-75, December.
  3. Bob Van der Zwaan, 2008. "Prospects for nuclear energy in Europe," International Journal of Global Energy Issues, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 30(1/2/3/4), pages 102-121.
  4. Xiaoling Zhang & Martin Skitmore & Yuzhe Wu & Kunhui Ye, 2010. "A regional construction R&D evaluation system for China," Construction Management and Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 28(12), pages 1287-1300.
  5. Grubler, Arnulf, 2010. "The costs of the French nuclear scale-up: A case of negative learning by doing," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(9), pages 5174-5188, September.
  6. Martin B. Zimmerman, 1982. "Learning Effects and the Commercialization of New Energy Technologies: The Case of Nuclear Power," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 297-310, Autumn.
  7. Jamasb, T. & Köhler, J., 2007. "Learning Curves For Energy Technology and Policy Analysis: A Critical Assessment," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0752, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  8. -, 2010. "Cambio climático: una perspectiva regional," Coediciones, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), number 1405 edited by Cepal, April.
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