Capital projects and infrastructure

The next test for nuclear

With the world’s population at seven billion—and counting—the escalating demand for energy and other natural resources is a hard reality facing both government and industry. Take, for example, electricity: Global demand for electricity is forecast to increase 75 percent by 2035.1 Add to that the growing focus on climate change and environmental concerns, and we find ourselves at a critical juncture that a new PwC analysis describes as a “crossroads for energy production.”2

While many observers point to renewables like solar and wind power as the solution to meet future demand responsibly, the report discusses why nuclear energy is not easily dismissed as part of the equation. Even in the most optimistic scenarios, renewables would satisfy only about one-third of global demand.3 Nuclear power is a viable option because it can provide reliable electricity on a large scale. For example, the power generated by one nuclear plant—2,000 megawatts—is equivalent to the power generated by a thousand wind turbines. 

Yet in the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami and the Fukushima accident, debate continues about the role of nuclear power in the US and around the world. Nevertheless, industry experts look toward a nuclear renaissance. They believe that the Fukushima accident, which occurred at a 40-year-old plant, has forced a re-evaluation of safety issues 5and underscores why a newer generation of nuclear power plants that adhere to exacting design and safety standards must be part of the energy solution.

With 27 plants under development, China could very well be the world’s proving ground for next-gen nuclear. In the US, two projects, Vogtle in Georgia and V.C. Summer in South Carolina, are in the early phases of construction. The success of these projects—and the future of nuclear—relies upon demonstrating that new and safe reactors can be built on time and on budget. Updated control analytics and asset management tools are believed to be the keys to making this happen.4

Nuclear power at a glance

Nuclear power at a glance

1 International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook 2010.

2 PwC, Gridlines, “What’s next for nuclear power?” 2011.

3 U.S. Energy Information Administration, International Energy Outlook 2010.

4 PwC, Gridlines, “What’s next for nuclear power?” 2011.

5 Ibid.

6 bid.