Four years after the Fukushima meltdown caused Japan to close all 48
of its nuclear plants and prompted Germany to pledge to shut down its 17
plants by 2022, nuclear projects are making a comeback. Yet, in the wake
of Fukushima, the project teams overseeing new reactors must navigate
heightened safety concerns and complex technology amid increased public
interest and, at times, opposition.
After Fukushima, 24 reactor projects around the world, representing over
US$135 billion, were postponed or canceled. Now 70 reactor construction
projects are underway worldwide, the most since 1989, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. By 2040, nuclear generation capacity will increase
60 percent globally, the International Energy Agency estimates.
The Asia Pacific region, especially China and India, is home to nearly
two-thirds of the reactors under construction. China plans to complete 29
new reactors from 2018 through 2030, raising its total to 49, according to
Bloomberg. China’s increased nuclear capacity
will exceed the current capacity of the United
States and Russia combined.
“We see most of the construction in the
growing economies, in the parts of the world
where you see strong economic growth,” Agneta
Rising, the head of the World Nuclear Association, told Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, nine of the new reactors, or 13
percent of the total, are going up in developed
countries. For the first time in more than 30
years, new nuclear plant projects are underway
in the United States, with four due to come
online by 2020. In September, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it would provide up
to US$12.6 billion in loan guarantees to nuclear projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Still, these initiatives face sometimes fierce opposition from public
stakeholders. The Japanese government sees nuclear power as critical to
the country’s growth, as it now relies mostly on imported natural gas and
coal for its power. However, in late 2014, when Japan announced it would
restart two nuclear reactors, hundreds of citizens protested.
“Gaining local residents’ understanding is very important,” Yoichi
Miyazawa, Japan’s minister of economy, trade and industry, told The
Associated Press. In advance of launching projects to bring the two reactors back online, government officials have held explanatory meetings with
“We see most of
in the growing
in the parts
of the world
where you see
—Agneta Rising, World Nuclear
Association, to Bloomberg