If you live in the Western World, you probably think that nuclear power is a thing of the past. There’s good reason for this too, with Germany and Belgium pledging to phase out all nuclear reactors by the year 2022 and France looking to dramatically reduce its dependence on atomic energy.
At the same time, infamous incidents such as the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster in 1986 have turned public opinion almost overwhelmingly against this controversial energy source, as its share of the global market has declined from 17% to 11% in the last 20 years.
Despite this, there’s evidence to suggest that nuclear energy remains popular in other parts of the world, whilst modern technology is also emerging to make this safer and more reliable. We’ll explore this further below, whilst asking what the future holds for this energy source.
What’s Happening in the Nuclear Energy Sector?
According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), there are around 70 nuclear reactors under construction across the globe, which is the highest number in 25 years.
Not only this, but there are also plans for another 500 global plants, which exceeds the current number of units currently in action.
Whilst not all of these plans will come to fruition, the key takeaway here is that nuclear power remains a viable and popular solution to many of the growing challenges that exist within the current energy market.
These include the growing global population and the subsequent increase in demand for energy, which must also be balanced with the need to reduce Co2 emissions throughout the world.
In this respect, a well-known and low-carbon technology like nuclear energy could be part of a multi-faceted solution going forward, particularly in regions like China that currently boasts high carbon emissions.
What Would the Nuclear Energy of the Future Look Like?
Whilst the use of nuclear power may well help nations such as China to cope with rising energy demands, however, the concerns surrounding this energy source remain.
There are innovations that are promising to make nuclear power safer and more reliable, however, whilst other technologies are also being developed to minimise waste and improve efficiency.
The first of these exists in the form of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), which are far easier to build and manage than larger alternatives. This is also a far safer option in the current marketplace, whilst they also deliver more cost-effective energy to customers.
Of course, this type of energy source would still be relatively prohibitively priced in the existing market, but there are technologies that can help to tackle this issue. One option is to convert the waste heat generated by plants into energy, which creates a renewable source of power and underpins a growing market that was valued at $17.2 million in 2017.
In terms of other technologies, flow control engineering has the potential to improve the efficiency and reliability of sites across the board.
As the name suggests, these technologies can help to minimise waste and optimise the distribution of energy within plants, which can in turn have a direct impact on cost-effectiveness and the levels of CO2 emissions released.