Nuclear Development

Nuclear Energy Agency

1990-066X (online)
1990-0678 (print)
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A series of publications from the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency on various aspects of nuclear development. The publications in this series provide authoritative, reliable information on nuclear technologies, economics, strategies and resources to governments for use in policy analyses and decision making.

Also available in: French
Market Competition in the Nuclear Industry

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01 Sep 2008
Pages :
9789264054073 (PDF) ; 9789264054066 (print)

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Nuclear power plants require a wide variety of specialised equipment, materials and services for their construction, operation and fuelling. There has been much consolidation and retrenchment in the nuclear industry since the 1980s, with the emergence of some large global nuclear companies. Electricity market liberalisation in many OECD countries has meanwhile placed nuclear plant operators under increased competitive pressure.

These structural changes in both the producer and consumer sides of the nuclear industry have had implications for the level of competition in the nuclear engineering and fuel cycle markets. With renewed expansion of nuclear power now anticipated, this study examines competition in the major nuclear industry sectors at present, and how this may change with a significant upturn in demand.

Also available in: French
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  • Introduction
    Designing, building, operating and fuelling nuclear power plants requires their owners/operators to procure a variety of specialised nuclear equipment, materials and services. The markets to provide these have changed substantially over their history as they have evolved from the government-led early stages of the nuclear industry.
  • Assessing the competitiveness of markets
    In order to make objective judgements about the competitiveness of the various markets for nuclear energy related materials, goods and services, it is first necessary to define some criteria against which the market characteristics can be assessed.
  • Competition in the design, engineering and construction of nuclear power plants
    The long period during which there have been very few new nuclear plant orders worldwide has led to considerable consolidation among NPP vendors, notably in Europe and the United States. This has led to the emergence of just three major global vendors for light water reactors: AREVA NP, GE Energy and Westinghouse. AREVA NP is a French-German company, GE Energy is a subsidiary of General Electric of the United States, while Westinghouse is a mainly US-based company which is now majority-owned by Toshiba of Japan.
  • Competition in the front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle
    The front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle includes all the activities which precede the loading of fuel elements into the core of the nuclear power plant. These activities are divided into several discrete steps, each of which is carried out on a separate site and usually by different companies. Thus, each step forms a distinct market sector.
  • Competition in the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle
    The most important activities in the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle concern the management of spent fuel unloaded from operating NPPs. A typical 1 000 MWe LWR produces 20 to 30 tHM of spent fuel per year, with annual global arisings amounting to about 10 000 tHM. Since the start of the commercial nuclear industry, over 200 000 tHM of spent fuel have been generated. This total could double by 2030 if there is a significant upturn in orders for new NPPs.
  • Competition in services for maintenance and upgrading of existing nuclear power plants (NPPs)
    The overall market for maintenance and upgrading of NPPs is a complex and diverse one, which can perhaps best be seen as a series of smaller markets. The activities covered range from routine maintenance and inspection services carried out during a regular refuelling outage, to major upgrading projects such as replacement of steam generators and reactor pressure vessel heads.
  • Implications for competition of proposed multilateral fuel supply arrangements
    At present, countries wishing to develop a nuclear power programme would normally have to rely on fuel cycle suppliers based in countries with established nuclear programmes. However, concerns about the availability of adequate supplies and the desire for energy independence may result in some countries being reluctant to rely on these established international suppliers.
  • Conclusions and recommendations
    After a long period of consolidation and retrenchment due to the lack of new orders in most countries since the 1980s, this sector appears poised for a major expansion in the coming decade and beyond. Despite the prolonged market depression since the 1980s, the remaining NPP vendors have continued to develop their designs and are now offering considerably improved products to those available during the last major periods of nuclear expansion.
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