Nuclear Power in Emerging NPP Countries

Justin Sao
May 9, 2017

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2017


Historically, the push for nuclear power for current established nuclear power countries was associated with high demand and growth of energy consumption as well as nuclear weapons. As of September 2010, interest in nuclear power has reemerged, as 65 prospective countries without nuclear power plants have expressed "interest in, considering, or actively planning for nuclear power" after a gap of nearly 15 years in nuclear power interest worldwide. [1]

In order to decrease dependency on energy imports and increase diversity of energy resources, these Newcomer Countries must have the technical, financial, and institutional capacities for the development of nuclear power plants (NPPs). This report will address the motivations behind the emergence of new NPPs in Newcomer Countries and some of the historic indicators that allowed for the success of NPPs in Established NP Countries, in hopes to determine the readiness of nuclear power in countries expressing new interest during this "nuclear renaissance."

Motivations for Newcomer NPP Countries

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a desire to decrease import dependency and increase diversity of energy sources coupled with growing energy demands influence the rise of nuclear power in Newcomer NPP Countries. However, initiating a nuclear power program is expected to take an average of 10-15 years. [2] Because of this time frame, many of the countries expressing interest in nuclear power have a high demand motivation due to their high average annual growth in electricity consumption (greater than 3%) and the relatively low number of years it would take for these countries to require 1 GWe of generating capacity (less than 10 years). Additionally, countries like Belarus, Eritrea, and Jamaica have a high import dependency and a low diversity index of fuels, which also contributes to their high motivation for nuclear power despite their low growth in electricity consumption per year (less than 3%). This high demand accompanied by having the required technical, financial, and institutional capacities to deploy a nuclear power program can be used to predict the success of Emerging NPP Countries.


Building a NPP with an energy capacity of 1 GWe (based on the fact that most newcomer NPPs have a capacity of 960 MWe [3]) requires significant financial, technical, and institutional demands. The technical requirement for nuclear power implementation is an electricity grid bigger than 10 GWe or international grid connections allowing for the sale of excess electricity to neighboring countries. Since a single power plant is not recommended to supply more than 10% of the regional grid capacity, countries with a small power grid must have strong international grid connections in order to succeed.

Two main indicators for financial capacity are the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and its GDP/capita. A country's national GDP approximates the availability of financial resources that can be utilized for the development of nuclear power as well as the country's "well being." Estimates for the financial investment required to construct a NPP are approximately USD 4000/kWe, which amounts to USD 4 billion for a 1 GWe NPP. [4,5]

NPP countries must also have a sufficient institutional capacity and political stability to begin a nuclear power program and gather international support, as well as attract private investment. Previous studies [2,6,7] have used markers such as the World Bank Government Effectiveness Indicator (GEI), the World Bank Political Stability Index (PSI), and historic occurrence of "partial or total state failure" to predict the institutional capacity for emerging NPP countries to support nuclear power. Having the ability to safely manage and gain international cooperation for nuclear power deployment can determine the success of a nuclear power program in Emerging NPP Countries.

Meeting These Requirements

Of the 52 Newcomer Countries reported by the IAEA in 2009, only 18 currently have a grid capacity than can accommodate a 1 GWe NPP and 8 are expected to have grids to manage a NPP of the same capacity by 2024. Of the remaining countries, 10 have international grid connections to provide excess electricity. [2]

Historically, the GDP of established nuclear power countries ranged from "13 billion USD to over 2 trillion USD and the GDP/capita ranged from $700 PPP/capita to $22,000 PPP/capita," with the exceptions of China, India, Korea, and Pakistan. [2] The study by Jewell points out that 25% of Newcomer NPP Countries have a GDP lower than Pakistan during the construction of its first NPP. [2] Although this can be a significant indicator for the deployment of nuclear power, the study further suggests a nuclear weapons program can "mobilize financial resources for a nuclear energy program in these relatively poor countries." [2]

Jewell highlights that the institutional capacity of Newcomer Countries fall below the historical institutional capacity of Established NPP Countries. Only 12% of the Newcomer Countries have a GEI in the upper quartile of countries in the world, suggesting the difficulty of attracting private investment in a NPP. [8] The mean politically stability measured by PSI also denotes a political stability for Emerging NPP Countries lower than the PSI of Established NPP Countries. [2] These studies suggest further challenges in accruing international support for a nuclear power program.


While the degree of motivation varies for the 65 Emerging NPP Countries that have expressed interest in nuclear power in 2010, these countries require a strong technical, financial, and institutional capacity to succeed in the deployment of a nuclear power program. While many of these countries express strong motivation due to their high annual energy demand and relatively low diversity of energy resources, the degree of "readiness" can be illuminated by the described indicators. Having a sufficient grid capacity or strong international connections to sell excess energy, a GDP and GDP/capita to support the deployment of a nuclear power program, and having the political stability to attract international support are significant factors that can influence the success of Emerging NPP Countries. Additional studies can further shed light on the readiness of specific countries during this "nuclear renaissance."

© Justin Sao. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] "International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power," International Atomic Energy Agency, GOV/INF/2010/12-GC(54)/INF/5, September 2010.

[2] J. Jewell, "Ready for Nuclear Energy?: An Assessment of Capacities and Motivations for Launching New National Nuclear Power Programs," Energy Policy 39, 1041 (2011).

[3] "Nuclear Power Reactors in the World," International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA-RDS-2/30, July 2010.

[4] Y. Du and J. E. Parsons, "Update on the Cost of Nuclear Power," Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research, May 2009.

[5] J. Harding, "Economics of Nuclear Power and Proliferation Risks in a Carbon-Constrained World," Electr. J. 20, 65 (2007).

[6] D. Finon and F. Roques, "Financing Arrangements and Industrial Organisation for New Nuclear Build in Electricity Markets," Competition and Regulation in Network Industries 9, 247 (2008).

[7] W. Nuttall and S. Taylor, "Financing the Nuclear Renaissance," University of Cambridge Electricity Policy Research Group, Working Paper 0814, July 2008.

[8] D. Kaufmann, A. Kraay, and M. Mastruzzi, "Governance Matters VII: Aggregate and Individual Governance Indicators 1996-2007," World Bank, Policy Research Working Paper 4654, June 2008.