Increasing Interest of Companies in Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Offers Impetus to Market Growth
A typical nuclear power plant has an average life of 30-35 years and is licensed to operate up to 35 years. If licenses are not renewed, the nuclear plant would go through a decommissioning process that involves disposal of radioactive wastes and dismantling of nuclear reactors. The nuclear power plant decommissioning has become a profitable business and a number of companies have started offering nuclear decommissioning services. However, nuclear waste can never be unshielded and is thus kept under water for a few years in order to minimize the radiation to a standard level. The final disposal is carried out after this.
Increasing interest in the nuclear power plant decommissioning business is driving the need for proper disposal of the nuclear waste at specific disposal facilities that are widely used to store hazardous waste away from the reach of the general public. While this is fuelling the nuclear waste management market, the landscape is highly fragmented, with major players focused on strategic agreements, acquisitions, and expansion of disposal facilities.
Growing Investments in Green Fuel Recovery to Benefit Demand Through Decommissioning of Existing Nuclear Reactors
Rapid population growth, high dependency on fossil fuels, rising decommissioning of old nuclear reactors, increasing electricity demand, growing stringency of government regulations over minimisation of harmful emissions, and high awareness among government institutions in different countries about proper radioactive disposal are the primary drivers of the global nuclear waste management market.
Year-on-year growth in the market for nuclear waste management services can be attributed to high focus on increasing energy requirements and achieving power supply targets. The market has received further impetus from rising environmental concerns to reduce harmful emissions. Stringent regulations related to fuel efficiency and the associated environmental concerns are building the next wave of nuclear waste management services. These regulations would have a significant impact on the nuclear waste management market in terms of implementation of various planned nuclear commissioning and decommissioning projects.
Nuclear waste management services are primarily employed by companies for minimising the toxicity of nuclear waste generated each year. The overall value chain of nuclear waste management is regulated by federal, state regulatory bodies, and environmental agencies, which differ from country to country. Many federal and state laws exist for spent fuel and waste disposal to protect the environment and human health. Research and development activities which focus on developing more efficient nuclear waste disposal systems would help in overcoming the challenge of safe disposal of hazardous nuclear wastes. Strict environmental and climate norms are focusing more on clean energy solutions. Clean and quick energy in line with low harmful emissions is among the top priorities of corporate environmental management programs. Toxicity of nuclear waste can be minimised through establishment of efficient disposal facilities and repositories. Timely investment in the development of nuclear waste disposal facilities is increasing and is expected to boost in the next few years.
High Service Costs Associated with High-level Nuclear Waste Management to Benefit Service Providers
High-level waste typically comprises used uranium fuel, spent fuel, or waste material residue of reprocessed fuel. It is highly toxic, requires proper shielding, handling in addition to the various treatments and processing before its final disposal. Moreover, it cannot be utilised for electricity generation. However, in terms of revenue generation, these add-on costs make the final disposal of high-level waste an attractive market. On an average, high-level nuclear waste is stored for a lot longer in order to minimise its toxicity through radioactive decay and is finally disposed using proper disposal techniques. Long-term management of high-level waste is still a concern for government institutions in various countries. These wastes are stored in robust storage facilities until a long-term disposal platform is developed.
Europe and Asia Pacific at Forefront with Planned Nuclear Decommissioning Projects
In 2020, there were about 440 nuclear power reactors operational in 32 countries. The combined nuclear installed capacity was about 400 GWe. In 2019, nuclear power provided 2657 TWh, i.e., over 10% of the world's electricity. About 50 power reactors are currently being constructed in 16 countries, including China, India, Russia, and the UAE. In 2019, 13 nuclear reactors were shut down globally, five of which were located in Japan, including Fukushima Daini 1, 2, 3, and 4, each with 1,067-megawatt electrical worth of net capacity. The growth in deployment of conventional as well as small modular nuclear reactors, followed by decommissioning of old reactors, is expected to benefit the nuclear waste management companies.
Currently, the growth potential of the nuclear waste management market is concentrated in Europe, followed by Asia Pacific. Both the regions dominated the global market in 2020 as they have a greater number of nuclear reactors, thereby generate significant quantities of nuclear wastes. The US, France, and Russia are the leaders in utilisation of nuclear wastes and are investing heavily in R&D of efficient nuclear waste management services. In 2017, a total of 10 commercial nuclear reactors in the US have been successfully decommissioned, while 20 reactors are under different phases of the decommissioning process.
Shale gas boom in North America has resulted in a switch from nuclear energy to natural gas services. The European Union (EU) is emphasizing clean energy in the wake of critical environmental concerns. This would lead to high demand for nuclear waste management services through the implementation of planned nuclear decommissioning projects. The demand for nuclear waste management is thus expected to increase in Europe. On the other side, Latin America and Middle East & Africa are yet to develop profitable markets.
Global Nuclear Waste Management Market: Competitive Landscape
Some of the key players in the nuclear waste management market include Posiva Oy, Veolia, Areva SA, BHI Energy, Augean PLC, Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB, Stericycle, Inc, Holtec International, Perma-Fix, US Ecology, Inc., and Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS).
In September 2020, a Finnish waste management company Posiva Oy announced a significant building services agreement related to the construction of the used fuel encapsulation plant and repository based at its Olkiluoto site. Earlier in July 2019, a consortium comprising Hartela Länsi-Suomi Oy, Vesi-Vasa Oy, Ilmastointi-Salminen Oy, and Sähkö-Rauma Oy signed a contract with Posiva Oy for the construction of the final disposal facility. The scope of work covered the construction and building services of the disposal facility for the technical facilities and tunnels excavated for the Onkalo repository. The value of the contract was US$ 47 Mn and the agreement under would last by 2022 end.