Safety, advanced reactors and policies to drive nuclear in 2015

The year 2014 ended on a relatively high point for the global nuclear energy industry. Japan approved the restart of two nuclear power plants, the DOE opened funding for advanced nuclear reactor technology research and development, and construction continued on projects around the world.

This year, industry experts expect more of the same, with a focus on safety, policies and the development of new reactor technologies. I recently spoke to leaders with the Nuclear Energy Institute, the International Energy Agency and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency about what they expected for 2015 worldwide. All of them said the focus on safety would not wane, specifically with the implementation of safety components and workforce training due to lessons learned from the Fukushima accident.

As the industry makes nuclear plants safer, governments are looking to add more nuclear to their energy mixes and are coming up with policies to make that move easier. Many countries are looking to see what the effects of Fukushima had on the industry and on public opinion, and are tailoring policies based on how nuclear fits in with their use of fossil fuels and renewables.

Along with policies, R&D of advanced technologies, such as small modular reactors and breeder reactors, are important for 2015 and beyond. All the experts say these reactors are expected to enter the global market in the 2020s for SMRs and the 2030s for other technologies, so the R&D and financing in the near term will be important for the long term.

Look for the full 2015 Global Outlook for Nuclear in the upcoming January/February issue of Nuclear Power International magazine.