Nuclear Here to Stay, Both in the U.S. and Globally, Says Industry Expert

France nuclear power plants elp

By Dr. Heather Johnstone, Publisher, PennWell International

Nuclear power is by far the best low-carbon, high-power-density generation source currently available. So said John DeBruin, vice president of Nuclear Engineering at URS Corporation, in his fact-filled presentation at Power Generation Week yesterday morning.

DeBruin provided an extremely comprehensive overview of the status of both the global and North American nuclear power sectors and also touched upon the rapidly emerging small modular reactor (SMR) sector.

Worldwide there are 436 units currently available to operate, but more impressively an additional 544 reactors are either under construction or in the planning stages. Thus, few would disagree with DeBruin’s assessment that atomic power is set to continue to be a significant contributor to the world’s electricity generation portfolio.

Interestingly, growth in the sector is not across the board, with both North America and Western Europe expected to show a downward trend over the next couple of decades. So where is the growth in the sector slated to come from? Quoting recent figures from the International Atomic Energy Agency, DeBruin said the growth up to 2030 would be driven by both the Middle East and Asia.

In fact you can see this trend now. While much of Western Europe, excluding the UK and France, is turning its back on developing new nuclear plants, Asian nations -- such as China, India and South Korea -- have aggressive nuclear expansion programs in place. For example, South Korea is not only active in at least four domestic new-build projects but also has plans for life extensions of its existing nuclear fleet.

What is especially interesting about those three countries is that their respective nuclear sectors enjoy strong governmental commitment. According to DeBruin, this type of support is essential for the successful development of nuclear power. Using the U.S. as an example, he called for a “more robust energy policy” to accelerate nuclear power in the country.

Having said that, he then went to some lengths to emphasize that it was certainly not the case that the U.S. and the wider North American region were not active in nuclear power and confirmed that currently five reactors were under construction, representing more than 5,600 MWe of new capacity, and an additional eight COL (combined license) applications were under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In addition, 73 license extensions have been issued and several U.S. utilities are involved in power uprate programs.

He then switched the focus of his presentation to SMRs and gave a very bullish assessment of this technology’s potential market worldwide. DeBruin also recommended a report published this month by National Nuclear Laboratory in the UK, which provides in depth analysis of the global SMR market and its potential to 2035. The full market report can be accessed and downloaded from NNL’s website (

The market study concludes that there is “a very significant market for SMRs where they fulfil a market need that cannot, in all circumstances, be met by large nuclear plants.” It proposed a market size of 65-85 GW by 2035 and a value of £250-400 billion (US$390-630 billion), especially in niche areas such as remote on-site power and desalination applications.

DeBruin said the biggest challenge facing the SMR sector was the need to bring down its high capital costs. If the industry can crack that through, for example, technology development, he felt confident that the sky would be the limit for nuclear power generation across the globe as we all move to a low-carbon future.

Subscribe to Nuclear Power International magazine

2014 Articles

Harvard Law School professor pays Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional


Laurence H. Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard University and former mentor to Barack Obama, said in an article last week that the EPA’s Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional.

3 SKorea workers die at nuke plant construction site


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Three South Korean workers died Friday after apparently inhaling toxic gas at a construction site for a nuclear plant being built by South Korea's monopoly nuclear power company, which has come un...

UMaine in business of certifying turbine blades


ORONO, Maine (AP) — The University of Maine has tested its largest wind turbine blade to date. UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center completed static strength testing this month of a 184-foot-long wind turbine...

Mergers, EPA carbon plan generated much attention during 2014


Mergers, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Power Plan, cheap natural gas and the polar vortex were among the most noteworthy generation stories of 2014.

Developer opens Ohio review for 800-MW, gas-fired project


Clean Energy Future-Lordstown LLC plans an 800-MW, gas-fired power project, and on Dec. 24 applied with the Ohio Power Siting Board for certain routine waivers it needs before filing a full siting application for this proj...

New England utility exec named to Vermont PSB


A woman who worked for Vermont's Department of Public Service for 17 years is going to become the next member of the utility-regulating Public Service Board. The appointment of Sarah Hofmann was announced Monday by Gov. Pe...

Brown picks aide to lead troubled California utility board


Gov. Jerry Brown named a former adviser on Tuesday to be the next head of California's troubled utilities commission, replacing a regulatory chief accused of back-channel dealings with utilities. Michael Picker, a former a...

Washington state carbon emissions dropped in 2011


Greenhouse gas emissions in Washington state dropped by about 4.6 percent between 2010 and 2011, led by reductions in emissions from the electricity sector, according to the latest figures released by the state. The latest...

Group wants state regulators recused from PNM case


State regulators in less than two weeks are to begin deliberating a proposal that calls for shutting down part of an aging coal-fired power plant in northwestern New Mexico that serves more than 2 million customers in the ...

Vermont Yankee plant prepares to shut down


The Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is getting ready to shut down. Its owner, Entergy Corp., says it is closing the plant for economic reasons. The plant in Vernon is expected to disconnect from the regional power grid Monday.

PSEG Solar to acquire Maryland solar project from juwi


PSEG Solar Source will acquire a 12.9-MW solar energy facility near Waldorf, Maryland from juwi solar (JSI). The PSEG Waldorf Solar Energy Center will increase the capacity of PSEG Solar Source's portfolio to 123-MW.

PG&E discloses more emails with state regulators


California's largest power utility released a dozen more emails Monday that it said showed improper back-channel discussions between the utility and top state regulators.

Indianapolis airport solar farm expansion completed


Contractors have finished bringing online dozens of acres of solar panels at Indianapolis International Airport, solidifying its status as the home of the nation's largest airport-based solar farm.

French power company to pay $772M in bribery case


A French power and transportation company has agreed to pay $772 million to resolve allegations that it bribed high-ranking foreign government officials for lucrative projects, the Justice Department said Monday.

Nebraska nuclear plant back online after short outage


The Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant is back online less than a week after its main generator unexpectedly shut down as a precaution.

Ameren Missouri plans $135M in energy efficiency


Missouri's largest electric company said Monday that it plans to invest $135 million in energy efficiency programs for customers over a three-year period.

TEPCO completes nuclear fuel assemblies removal from Fukushima 4


Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said it has safely removed the fuel assemblies from the most damaged nuclear reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

B&W Vølund to build waste-to-energy power plant in Scotland


In a consortium with Interserve, Babcock & Wilcox Co.’s (B&W, NYSE:BWC) subsidiary, Babcock & Wilcox Vølund A/S (B&W Vølund), will engineer, procure and construct (EPC) a waste-to-energy (WTE) power plant f...

SKorea holds N-plant drills against cyber threats


South Korea's monopoly nuclear power company said it began drills Monday against possible cyberattacks after online threats of attack against its plants.

PSC approves solar power project


The Public Service Commission has approved solar power project planned by Kentucky Utilities and Louisville Gas and Electric in Mercer County.

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now


Logistics Risk Management in the Transformer Industry

Transformers often are shipped thousands of miles, involving multiple handoffs,and more than a do...

Secrets of Barco UniSee Mount Revealed

Last year Barco introduced UniSee, a revolutionary large-scale visualization platform designed to...

The Time is Right for Optimum Reliability: Capital-Intensive Industries and Asset Performance Management

Imagine a plant that is no longer at risk of a random shutdown. Imagine not worrying about losing...

Going Digital: The New Normal in Oil & Gas

In this whitepaper you will learn how Keystone Engineering, ONGC, and Saipem are using software t...