Environmental concerns and increasing electricity demand are boosting the nuclear energy market

Supplying over 31% of electricity demand, nuclear energy plays a key role in the EU’s generation structure, and emerges as a comprehensive and cost-effective generating option. In fact, it has the potential to reduce carbon dioxide emission, to meet the ever-increasing demand for electricity and to make a crucial contribution to the Community’s energy independence and security of supplies. The prospect of nuclear energy is still uncertain. However, the market shows a renaissance of nuclear generation. According to Frost & Sullivan, the market is expected to witness solid growth over the medium and long term. The worldwide installed nuclear capacity will grow considerably, and may reach 600 GW in 2030.
Globally, there are 439 nuclear power reactors in 31 countries with an installed electricity net capacity of about 372 GW in operation, generating approximately 16% of the world’s electricity. In Europe the situation is very diverse. “Overall in the enlarged European Union, there are 146 nuclear reactors in operation and four under construction”, says Frost & Sullivan’s Research Analyst Maciej Jeziorski. “In the 15 countries, which have nuclear reactors, the share of nuclear power out of the total electricity production ranges from only 3.5% in the Netherlands to 78.1% in France.”

The Central and Eastern European region is witnessing a high increase of electricity consumption due to the robust economic growth and the rising standards of living. CEE countries have been growing rapidly, outpacing the EU-15 by a wide margin. As a result, the electricity demand has been increasing radically (5% GDP growth results in over 3% upsurge in electricity consumption). Moreover, as members of the EU, CEE states are obliged to considerably decrease carbon dioxide emission. The time is ripe to expand nuclear energy. By 2030, the capacity in the CEE states will, at least, double. It appears that the region has no better option than investing in nuclear power generation, thus a big increase in this sector is expected to happen in the coming years.

Most countries in the region have nuclear power units in operation. The Czech Republic has six nuclear reactors, generating over one third of its electricity; Slovakia has five reactors supplying over half of its demand; Slovenia has one reactor (jointly owned with Croatia), which supplies 40% of the country’s demand; Hungary has four nuclear units generating more than one third of its electricity; Bulgaria has two reactors supplying over 40% of the state’s demand; and Romania has two reactors, which account for about 10% of the country’s production.

The only EU exception in this region is Poland. “The country had four 440 MW Russian units under construction in the 1980s at Zarnowiec, but the work was halted in 1990 and the components were put up for sale”, explains  Jeziorski. “Nevertheless, the domestic electricity consumption in Poland, according to the official document  Energy Policy of Poland Until 2025, is forecast to grow by 80-93% (depending on assumed scenario) until 2025, which requires substantial additional investments in power generation. Moreover, due to the European regulations to radically reduce the Community’s carbon dioxide emissions, the country has no better option than launching a nuclear power plant at once, so that the first plant should be operating around 2021-2022 (a timeframe that has been stated in the most recent governmental documents).”

Currently, there are 35 nuclear power units under construction worldwide. In the CEE region, where 20 reactors are in operation, there are plans to set up new or upgrade existing power plants. Today, the CEE region has a net electricity capacity of over 11,000 MW and this is forecast to increase considerably.