The global nuclear power market size was valued at USD 32.67 billion in 2022. It is projected to reach USD 43.00 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 3.10% during the forecast period (2023-2031).
Nuclear energy can provide power with lower carbon emissions than fossil fuels. Nuclear power is one of the most dependable methods of producing electricity with low carbon emissions. Furthermore, it offers long-term assurance about electricity costs. The adoption of nuclear power plant construction projects starting in 2020 is the main reason the global nuclear power industry is anticipated to grow considerably during the projected period. The key factors driving the nuclear power market include the fact that there is a greater demand for energy than there is a supply of it, as well as raising awareness of the benefits of clean energy and the depletion of fossil resources.
The growth in carbon emissions has harmed the world, and as a result, nations worldwide have begun to take action to reduce their carbon footprints. The Paris Agreement under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change was signed in 2016 to lower carbon emissions. The pact covers financing, adaptation, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be significantly reduced to lessen climate change's hazardous effects. The demand for nuclear power plants is anticipated to reduce the increase in carbon emissions, as the generation of electricity through fossil-based power plants accounts for a significant portion of the net carbon emissions.
Around the world, the growth of renewable energy is exploding. As a result, several locations have fewer FDIs and investments in the nuclear power industry. By the end of 2020, the total installed nuclear power capacity had expanded by nearly 40 GW since 2000, or 2.1 GW/year, to reach about 392.61 GW. Compared to nuclear power, more than 700 GW of wind power and 700 GW of solar power capacity have been added since 2000.
Compared to complex and massive centralized nuclear power facilities, simple and distributed technologies may be implemented more quickly, another factor contributing to the development of renewable energy capacity. Only about 2.01 GW of additional nuclear power capacity was added to the grid in 2020, despite China being one of the world's nuclear power market leaders by a significant margin. Around 136 GW of new renewable capacity went online within the same time frame.
An increasing number of nuclear power reactors are undergoing long-term operating and aging management programs across various nations. It contributes to extending the reactor's lifespan beyond what it was initially intended for, i.e., to assure ongoing, secure, and sustainable operations supported by beneficial policies in numerous nations. In the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development member nations, the lifetime extension of nuclear power reactors has become commonplace (OECD). Most operators prepare technical advancements, safety enhancements, fuel performance, characteristics modifications, refueling schedules, and lead times when they apply for an extended operating license.
Most nuclear power reactors were initially only expected to operate for 25–40 years, but engineering analyses allowed them to continue doing so. Over 85 reactors in the United States had received license renewals from the NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission, United States), extending their operational lifespan from 40 to 60 years by the end of 2016. The energy policy in France was changed to allow for the operating lifetime extensions of existing reactors beyond 40 years and to extend the anticipated reduction of nuclear power in part of its electricity mix.
The global nuclear power market is segmented by application and reactor type.
Based on application, the global nuclear power market is bifurcated into energy, defense, and others.
The energy segment is the major contributor to the market and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 2.90% during the forecast period. Nuclear energy is the energy emitted from the protons and neutrons that make up an atom's nucleus or core. Atomic nuclei can divide into several pieces to create nuclear fission or fuse to create nuclear fusion (when nuclei fuse). Nuclear fusion technology is still in the research and development (R&D) stage, whereas nuclear fission is currently employed to generate electricity. In the upcoming few years, it is anticipated that the world's urbanization will accelerate along with population and economic growth.
In the defense sector, nuclear power applications are best suited for submarine propulsion and naval fleet ships that are kept at sea for extended periods without refueling. The Army Nuclear Power Program (ANPP) was established in 1954 by the Atomic Energy Commission and the United States Army Corps of Engineers to develop small pressurized water and boil water nuclear power reactors to produce electricity and heat space at remote or generally inaccessible locations. USS Nautilus, the first atomic-powered submarine, was launched into the ocean in 1955. In the 1960s, Nautilus paved the way for creating submarines with a single pressurized water reactor and an aircraft carrier with eight Westinghouse reactor units, the USS Enterprise.
Based on reactor type, the market is bifurcated into pressurized water reactors and pressurized heavy water reactors, boiling water reactors, and others.
The pressurized water reactor (PWR) segment is the major contributor to the market and is estimated to boost at a CAGR of 3.05% during the forecast period. The most frequently used nuclear reactor design worldwide is the Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR). In a PWR, high-pressure water is delivered to the core reactor and heated by the energy the core reactor releases. Atomic fission causes heat to be emitted, which is then used to produce steam. The central turbine unit turns the turbine generator to produce electricity using the steam generated due to heat exchange between the water coolant and water moderator. The steam is collected in the steam generator and transferred to the central turbine unit.
A CANDU (Canada Deuterium Uranium) reactor is another name for a pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR). This kind of reactor has been developed in Canada since the 1950s. IAEA estimates that as of December 2020, there will be 48 operating PHWR reactors with a combined net capacity of 23.9 GW, most of which are located in Canada. PHWRs typically burn naturally occurring, unenhanced uranium oxide as fuel, necessitating more effective heavy water as the coolant. By enabling the reactor to run without fuel enrichment facilities and improving neutron economy, heavy water allows the reactor to use alternative fuel cycles. Unlike PWR nuclear facilities, PHWR designs demand thin-walled pressure tubes. This enables the spread of pressure boundaries and negligible pressure tubes with small diameters.
Another form of nuclear reactor that produces electricity is a boiling water reactor. After PWR, it holds the second-largest market share globally. It is comparable to PWR, which generates steam using light water. The discrepancy results from how a steam generator works. In a BWR, the core reactor directly heats the water, producing steam. A water-steam separator filters the steam before it is sent to the turbines, where it is used to have power. New steam is exhausted to the condenser, which condenses into water, similar to PWR. With the help of several pumps, the regenerated water is pumped out of the condenser, heated, and then pumped back into the core reactor. An onsite diesel generator runs electric pumps in the event of an electricity grid failure.
The reactor that uses uranium as fuel, graphite as a moderator, and helium gas as a coolant are known as a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. The reactor generates energy and has a maximum heat output of 950 °C. They are a more modern variant of the gas-cooled reactors from an earlier generation, which have seen widespread commercial use, particularly in the United Kingdom. With 14 of the 15 operating GCR reactors and around 7725 MW of net capacity, the United Kingdom was the largest market for GCRs as of December 2020. Most of the nation's nuclear energy is produced by seven AGR stations, or advanced gas-cooled reactors, which are part of EDF Energy's second generation of British gas-cooled reactors and use carbon dioxide as carbon dioxide coolant and graphite as a neutron moderator.
As coolants, different liquid metals, including sodium, sodium-potassium alloy, mercury, lead, lead-bismuth, and tin, are used in liquid metal fast breeder reactors (LMFBR). By using these coolants, uranium resources can be used to produce power more efficiently. LMFBR uses Uranium-238, which is non-fissionable but contains 99.3% natural uranium, in contrast to every other conventional nuclear power station. With the use of neutron absorption, plutonium-239 can be created from uranium-238. One of its distinguishing characteristics is that LMFBR generates more fissile material than it consumes while producing energy.
The reactor's five main parts are the reactor core, heat exchanger, steam generator, steam turbine, and condenser. The plutonium and uranium oxide mixture that makes up the reactor's core emits heat and radiation. The heat produced is captured by the sodium liquid, which then uses to warm up the second loop of sodium before heating the water. The generator is turned on by the steam that is created.
The global nuclear power market is divided into four regions: North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and LAMEA.
North America is the most significant major contributor and is expected to boost at a CAGR of 3.00% during the forecast period. Nuclear energy is a primary focus in North America. While learning about the potential for compact modular reactors, the U.S. and Canada are concentrating on extending the life of nuclear power plants. As of November 2021, the United States operated the world's largest fleet of nuclear power reactors, with 93 units spread over nearly 30 states and a total capacity of 95.5 GW. With over 31% of the world's nuclear power generated in 2020, the United States is one of the largest nuclear power producers in the world. In 2020, the nation's nuclear reactors generated 790 TWh of power, a tiny 2.3% down from the amount generated in 2019.
In Europe, nuclear energy comprised over 22% of the energy mix in 2020, making it one of the most significant contributors. However, in the upcoming years, some major nations' governments, like those of Germany, France, Spain, and others, aim to decommission some of their nuclear power reactors. Nuclear power stations typically last between 30 and 40 years in operation. Many of Europe's reactors are getting close to this age and will need improvements and life extensions because the majority were erected in the 1960s and 1970s. It is anticipated that the European nuclear power market will experience a minor decline in adding new capacity. In addition, the industry is expected to be constrained by issues including water scarcity and investments in the field of renewable energy.
China will have the most extensive new-build nuclear energy program globally by 2021. The robust project pipeline is anticipated to improve the outlook for the Chinese nuclear power market, which has previously faced regulatory challenges due to the government's decision to halt nuclear reactor approvals until a re-examination of plans was completed following the Fukushima Disaster in Japan in 2011. China develops nuclear power facilities using the most cutting-edge technology and exacting standards. It closely controls every stage of a nuclear power plant's life cycle, from design to construction to operation to decommissioning. China had 52 nuclear power reactors operating as of December 2021, with a total combined capacity of 49.77 GWe.
When the administrations of Brazil and Argentina were created in the 1960s with an emphasis on producing nuclear power, nuclear energy projects were first observed in South America. The nuclear power market in the region is expected to grow due to the goals of both nations to construct additional power reactors in the upcoming years. Brazil is anticipated to have a modest increase in nuclear power due to rising decarbonization ambitions and surging energy demand. Brazil has two nuclear reactors, producing about 3% of the country's electricity as of August 2021. In 1982, the first atomic power reactor started operating for commercial purposes. Eletrobrás and Westinghouse teamed forces in February 2020 to extend Angra 1, the first nuclear power plant, from 40 to 60 years of operational life.
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