Prospects for Nuclear Energy in Asia
This working paper by Hooman Peimani (Energy Studies Institute)was commissioned for the 2012 Pacific Energy Summit on ” Innovation Generation: Powering a Prosperous Asia.”
The paper outlines the reasons for Asia’s interest in nuclear power and argues that despite the 2011 disaster at Fukushima, the region will continue to be the main arena for expanding the use of nuclear power. The Executive Summary is also available in Vietnamese
Asia has established itself as the world’s largest energy consumer, accounting for 45.2% of the global energy consumption in 2010. Today, fossil energy accounts for the bulk of regional energy requirements, but many factors have demanded diversification of the region’s energy mix to include non-fossil energy—particularly nuclear power, which can provide clean energy on a large scale and in a reliable manner. While concerns about the safety of nuclear reactors are legitimate, they are not a strong argument for dismissing nuclear energy. Consequently, safety concerns have not resulted in serious plans in Asia to reverse or downsize nuclear energy programs in its countries with active programs or serious existing plans.
- The Asia-Pacific region has been growing at a significant rate, which ensures a high and increasing demand for goods and services. In turn, such economic momentum has unsurprisingly ensured a large and growing demand for energy in the region.
- Against a background of a resurgence of interest in nuclear energy in developing countries, evidence suggests that Asia is opting for nuclear energy on a larger scale than other regions. Reasons for this interest include energy security concerns, geopolitical considerations, financial imperatives, desires to mitigate global warming, and opportunities to benefit from exporting nuclear technology.
- Fukushima has not been a game changer when it comes to Asia’s nuclear power sector. Unconvinced by the argument equating nuclear energy with nuclear disasters, and having compelling reasons to continue with nuclear energy, all Asian countries with active and serious nuclear programs will continue at paces determined by their countries’ specific needs for and views toward nuclear energy. Japan seems to be an exception to the rule, having shut down many of its reactors for inspection right after the Fukushima crisis and suspended the construction of its two new projects. Yet, having no realistic alternative to nuclear energy, the Japanese government has pointed out this reality as a prelude to a gradual re-opening of the shut-down facilities.
Hooman Peimani is Head of the Energy Security Division and Principal Fellow at the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore.