New report 'Status and Prospects for Nuclear Power 2017' from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has formed two predictions for the future of installed nuclear power. 

Noted as 'high case', the best scenario sees global capacity of installed nuclear power increasing by 123% in 2050 from 2016 levels. This assumes that current rates of economic and electricity demand growth will continue.

The agency also published a 'low case' scenario, which assumed a continuation of current market, technology, and resource trends with few changes to policies affecting nuclear power.

The 'low case' sees a decline in installed nuclear capacity by 12% in 2030 and 15% in 2040, before recovering to present levels by 2050.

In this case, North America and regions including northern, western, and southern Europe would be projected to experience major decline, while Africa and western Asia would be set to see slight increases in capacity.

"Maintaining an operating fleet is necessary in order to bridge the gap between existing and next-generation technologies."

According to the report, the low projections until 2050 would not bring any net growth in installed capacity. However, at least 320GW would be installed to make up losses caused by retiring reactors in different parts of the world.

Department of Nuclear Energy head and deputy director general Mikhail Chudakov said: “In some countries, concerns about climate change provide an incentive to support continued operation of nuclear power plants, or are part of the argument for a new build programme.

“Over time, advanced technologies may become commercially available for consideration as part of a low carbon energy mix. More than 30 advanced water cooled reactors are already under construction worldwide.

“In the meantime, and in light of increased demand for clean energy, maintaining an operating fleet is necessary in order to bridge the gap between existing and next-generation technologies.”

Image: A reactor. Photo: courtesy of L. Potterton/IAEA.