Nuclear renaissance could fizzle after Japan quake


While the incident could hurt nuclear roll-out in the United States and Japan, China and India are expected to push forward with plans to increase their nuclear footprint as they look to expand power sources to fuel rapid urbanization.

China plans to boost its nuclear generation from about 11 gigawatts a year to at least 80 gigawatts by 2020. The Asian nation has 50 reactors in the planning stage.

Current global demand for uranium is 180 million pounds (S$367.6 million) a year, of which 140 million pounds comes from mine production.

The rest is filled by stockpiles and downgraded weapons-grade uranium, according to Cameco.

China alone will need up to 60 million additional pounds a year if it is successful in its roll-out.

While analysts don't expect China to back down due to the situation in Japan, the Asian nation will face increased pressure to make sure its new reactors meet the highest safety standards.

"I would hope that since China is in an earthquake zone as well, that these events provoke the Chinese to install more safety precautions," said Salman Partner's Goldie.

The situation is less clear in India, which has plans to double its nuclear output over the next 10 to 15 years, but already faces massive bureaucratic delays in developing atomic power.

The Japanese quake could also slow Brazil's plans for new nuclear power generation to help meet growing demand - and prevent a repeat of recent blackouts.

"Nuclear power has gained traction in Brazil because it has less climate impact than fossil fuel generation, but this accident in Japan could renew environmental opposition to nuclear," said Adriano Pires, an energy expert at the Brazilian Centre for Infrastructure.

While the full impact of Japan's nuclear accidents remain to be seen, opponents say that the risk has been made clear enough to force most governments to reconsider plans to build out nuclear capacity.

"This is what you would call a show-stopping event," said Robert Alvarez of the Institute for Policy Studies, who is an opponent of nuclear power development globally.

"At a minimum, I think there's going to be some reappraisal about the degree to which countries want to pursue a nuclear future."

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