Mapping the Global Market for Advanced Nuclear
Third Way has long supported the development and deployment of advanced nuclear power as a technology that can help prevent the most harmful impacts of climate change. Leading climate research, from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the US National Climate Assessment, the International Energy Agency, and the Union of Concerned Scientists, tells us that we’ll need a variety of low-carbon technologies to reduce global emissions in a meaningful time frame.
While the pandemic and global economic crisis are causing a temporary lull in energy consumption, long term energy demand will increase substantially, particularly in emerging markets. Mature economies will also need to add a significant amount of new power generating resources to the grid in the coming decades to replace coal plants and aging clean nuclear plants. The world must meet as much of this global demand with carbon-free power as possible and avoid relying on high-emitting coal and gas plants to fill this need. There is a narrow window of opportunity to advance climate efforts, and we must be ready with all of the clean energy technologies we can get our hands on. We know advanced nuclear energy can play a meaningful part. But how meaningful? And which markets might be ready for this new technology?
Since 2015, Third Way has been tracking the commercialization of advanced nuclear projects in North America. There has been significant technological, financial, and policy progress toward developing and commercializing advanced nuclear reactors in the United States during the last five years. But we are not alone in this pursuit. As The New York Times recently highlighted, Russia and China recognize this opportunity and are aggressively developing new reactor designs to capture the emerging market for advanced nuclear and the global influence that will come with it.
Now, as multiple reactor designs push towards demonstration and deployment over the next decade, we want to highlight the very real opportunity and strategic need for the United States to reclaim its leadership in an industry that is critical for both climate change and national security - an industry that will soon leave us behind if we fail to act. That’s why Third Way partnered with the Energy for Growth Hub to conduct a comprehensive global market assessment for advanced nuclear power and illustrate the potential of these technologies.
Our new interactive map provides a first-of-a-kind ‘nuclear readiness assessment’ and electricity demand projections in 2030 and 2050 for 148 countries—and it makes a pretty strong case for pursuing innovative nuclear energy technologies. Our ‘readiness assessment’ uses 6-stage scale to describe a country’s relative preparedness and motivation for the development of nuclear power. The map shows potential markets for advanced nuclear in every region of the world and across all income groups. Driven by growth in Africa and Asia, we estimate that the global market for nuclear power could triple by 2050. (See our methodology here)
1. Global electricity demand will more than double by 2050, with this growth almost entirely in emerging markets.
- Over 90% of new demand by 2050 will be outside High-Income countries.
- We identify 62 “Demand Engines,” which are countries whose electricity consumption will more than triple. Of those, 14 are in Asia, 35 in Africa, and none are in western Europe or North America.
2. These same fast-growing emerging markets are ready—or nearly ready—for advanced nuclear technology to help meet part of their future energy demand
- 37 countries (green) are ready for advanced nuclear power right now with an additional 11 countries (light green) potentially ready by 2030.
- 86% of new global electricity demand in 2050 is projected to occur in these green/light green countries.
- By 2050, another 46 markets (yellow) could be ready for advanced nuclear technology if their governments continue to take preparatory steps.
3. The global market for nuclear power could triple by 2050
- Based on conservative projections (20% of future demand in green markets, 10% in light green, and 5% in yellow), the total world market for nuclear power could triple to 7,500 TWH per year.
- Under these conditions, new nuclear power could produce up to $400 billion worth of electricity annually.
Where Do We Go From Here?
The US must be more proactive in supporting a pipeline for advanced reactor demonstration and deployment if we hope to enter the market in time to make a sizable impact on the world’s mid-century emissions goals. We’ve already seen positive first steps as the U.S. Congress passed a series of bipartisan bills to streamline regulations and licensing, open up our national labs, and fund a demonstration program for advanced nuclear technology. Now, we need to take this effort to the next level with a more aggressive national strategy supported by federal policy. As the U.S. moves towards demonstration and deployment, we need to streamline export protocols and provide greater support to companies working on innovative designs that can help meet the needs of fast-growing emerging markets.
The US should accelerate support for emerging and frontier markets so that they can take advantage of advanced nuclear energy as a reliable, scalable, zero-carbon energy source. By implementing the following policies, the U.S. government can give America’s advanced nuclear industry the tools it needs to get its products to market, displace high-emitting fossil fuels, and compete with Chinese and Russian nuclear interests.
Re-establish the U.S. government as the first funder and customer of U.S. advanced nuclear to compete with Russian and Chinese state-owned nuclear enterprises. Congress should pass legislation that provides longer-term (e.g. 30 years or more) federal power purchase agreements for clean energy technologies, inclusive of nuclear, and codifying into law the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.
Develop a clearer interagency system to support the development and deployment of advanced reactors by establishing nuclear-specific staff positions across the federal government to develop and coordinate a nuclear energy strategy both domestically and internationally. Congress should request an assessment of which countries are best positioned to import U.S. advanced nuclear technologies and/or partner in building supply chain infrastructure based on criteria including regional stability and security, development needs and goals, and climate impact.
Update the U.S. nuclear energy export process and increase international engagement efforts ahead of U.S. advanced nuclear technologies hitting the global market. As a first step, the U.S. State Department and Department of Energy should pursue Atomic Energy Act Section 123 Agreements now with countries that are ready, or will be ready to import advanced nuclear technologies in the future. Congress should direct the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to coordinate licensing approaches with potential international partners.
Ensure that Financing is available for the emerging and frontier markets that will be the primary consumer base for advanced nuclear. The lifting of the nuclear prohibition at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) was a positive first step. Moving forward the U.S. government should ensure that DFC, the Export Import Bank, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other relevant agencies have sufficient resources, tools, and flexibility to support advanced nuclear projects in a diverse set of markets.
How to Use This Map
- A 6-stage scale describing each country’s relative preparedness and motivation for the development of advanced nuclear power.
- Projected percentage growth in national electricity demand from 2017-2050.
- Projected additional electricity demand in TWh for each country in 2050.
- The World Bank’s four Income Groupings: low, lower-middle, upper-middle, and high, based on GNI per capita (in U.S. dollars, converted from local currency using the Atlas method).
- The World Resources Institute’s projected water stress ratings in 2040 - Nuclear powered desalination could play a significant role in addressing the growing demand for potable water and provide an option for areas with acute water shortages.
- The 2020 NTI Nuclear Security Index ratings that assess actions related to supporting global nuclear security efforts.
- The 2020 NTI Nuclear Security Index rankings of 46 countries with nuclear facilities to assess actions to protect those facilities against sabotage.
In order to understand the potential global market for advanced nuclear technologies, we set out to determine two things: Where is the opportunity (using new energy demand), and where can nuclear power contribute in a meaningful way (using our “readiness” score)?
We define a country as “ready” for nuclear by considering if it could be a customer for an advanced nuclear supplier and credibly negotiate a purchase agreement with an international supplier country. We determine this by using a 10-point checklist covering internal institutions and controls such as policy and regulatory agencies, as well as external signals of interest such as engagement with supplier countries and international institutions like the International Atomic Energy Agency. More information on the scoring methodology can be found here.
To estimate future electricity consumption, we use historical data to establish a trend based on income correlations. We then extrapolate this relationship to 2030 and 2050 for each country, using data and forecasts from the United Nations, International Energy Agency, International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. More information on the electricity projection methodology is available here.