High prices, public opinion challenge nuclear power industry in Europe

High capital costs and maintaining public confidence are seen as the greatest challenges facing the European nuclear power industry, according to a recent survey conducted by Platts.

Political risk, long construction periods, regulatory uncertainty and safety concerns were also highlighted as key hurdles before the continent’s nuclear power companies, according to the survey.

“While most of these challenges are traditional to the industry and likely always will be, they’ll likely be heightened as new units, particularly those using new designs, are built,” said Platts chief editor Tom Harrison. “Currently these challenges are being viewed in a particular context, one of: increased concerns about climate change, the pursuit of energy diversity, cost/benefit of competing generating sources, and attention to safety and its costs in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.”

A newer aspect to these challenges, Harrison explained, is that reactor vendors and other suppliers competing for new export opportunities are exploring new ways of packaging deals as nuclear power programs are introduced in other countries.

Industry supporters and detractors are expected to watch closely the first new nuclear projects in Europe to see how they fare as they encounter those political, financial, regulatory and safety issues.

When asked about the future of nuclear power capacity expansion in Europe, 80 percent of respondents said that nuclear power would succeed in gaining a larger share of Europe’s overall power generation mix.

“The sector is at a critical juncture, with opportunities for growth, but with key challenges and uncertainties that must be overcome in terms of regulatory structure, human resources, and financing arrangements in the next few years,” said one survey respondent.

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