This positive assertiveness, that all was, and will be, well, may overdone: the prospects for nuclear may not actually be as bright as portrayed. The NEA admitted that ‘as retirements increase in the 2030s and 2040s, a greater fraction of new-build will go to simply replace what already exists. Hence, it says ‘the growth of nuclear capacity could slow after 2030 unless there is a strong upturn in new construction at that stage’.
Moreover, there could be problems well before that. In addition to the increasing economic problems facing the proposed nuclear programmes in the UK and USA, France is rethinking its policy on nuclear. And Germany, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Ireland, Denmark, Norway and several other EU countries, are anti or non nuclear. Bahrain, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan have also now adopted critical stances. Brazil has delayed work on a new nuclear plant and of course Japan in unlikely ever to build a new plant and may well keep most of the existing ones shut.
A 24-country public opinion study carried out by Ipsos in May 2011 found that 62% of those asked opposed nuclear power. 26% had changed their mind after Fukushima, with opposition in some countries being very high, ranging up to 69% in Brazil and 79% in Germany. Interestingly, it was at 62% in Russia and 58% in China- two of the key areas the industry looks to for future growth. A GlobeScan opinion poll, commissioned by the BBC, and completed in Sept 2011, put opposition in France at 83% and in Japan at 84%.
Certainly, given that context, internally, within the nuclear industry, the mood is more reflective. For example, Steve Kidd from the World Nuclear Association admitted, in the Industries trade journal Nuclear Engineering International, that since the Fukushima accident, ‘public and political acceptance of nuclear power has taken something of a knock in certain countries, resulting in the revival of phase-out policies.’ He went on: ‘Even in countries where nuclear power is still being endorsed as a useful contributor to a clean energy future, statements in support of nuclear power have been something less than strong and positive endorsements. And if this is the case, political choices in favour of nuclear and decisions made by private companies to invest in new nuclear stations are likely to get deflected by the slightest problem, and other less worthy energy options may indeed be pursued’.