Stabilising carbon dioxide concentrations at 550 parts per million (ppm) by 2100 could lead to a nuclear power industry boasting 6000 reactors, according to Sonny Kim of the Joint Global Change Research Institute.
Kim is a laboratory fellow at the Joint Global Change Research Institute, set up by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Maryland. The body has been studying the interlinked mechanisms of climate change with the help of the Kansai Electric Power Company, Rio Tinto, the Electric Power Research Institute and the US Department of Energy, among others. Kim explained the research to delegates at the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle 2008 meeting in Miami, USA.
JGCRI research indicates that with no global carbon control policy, emissions would triple by 2100. This would be driven in part by a five-fold increase in electricity generation over the same period. Under this reference scenario nuclear power would grow from 439 reactors and 16% of global electricity now, to about 2400 reactors and 20% of electricity.
Should the world act as one to impose a tax on carbon dioxide emissions with the aim of stabilising concentrations of CO2 at 450 ppm, that tax might have to increase as high as $800 per tonne of carbon (about $220 per tonne of CO2). Stabilising at 550 ppm could cost $110 per tonne of CO2 by comparison, and that choice would affect the scale of the future nuclear power industry. The other main factor would be the availability or not of carbon capture and storage to enable the continued use of fossil fuels.
Stabilising at 550 ppm with CCS available would see the nuclear power industry expand to 4000 reactors to provide 30% of electricity. Without CCS the figures could be 6000 and 50%. The value of these scenarios to nuclear was put at $0.9 trillion and $1.3 trillion respectively.
An extreme scenario of forcing a stabilisation at 450ppm without the availability of CCS could see a nuclear industry worth a whopping $10 trillion.
The ultimate goal of JGCRI's climate change research is to create an energy-agriculture-economy model containing the full linkages between all processes affecting climate change, including feedback.