Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2014
The latest World Nuclear Industry Status Report, published in July 2014,* provides a comprehensive review of nuclear power data, which “is critically important to understanding the past and current situations without bias for a healthy public policy debate.” According to the study’s forward by Tatsujiro Suzuki — who until March 2014 was Vice-Chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and is one of the report’s eight authors.
The report includes information on reactor operations, production and construction and looks extensively at the status of new-build programs in existing as well as in potential newcomer countries, considering in detail how changing market conditions are affecting the economics of nuclear power. The 2014 edition updates a Fukushima Status Report featured for the first time in 2013 which then triggered widespread media attention. The Nuclear Power vs. Renewable Energy chapter provides comparative data on investment, capacity and generation and assesses how nuclear power performs in systems with high renewable energy share.
The report’s detailed country-by-country analysis provides an overview of all 31 countries operating nuclear power reactors, with extended sections on China, Japan and the United States.
Some of the key findings by the report’s eight authors reporting from London, Paris, Berlin, Hamburg and Tokyo, include:
• A declining role. Nuclear power’s share of global commercial primary energy production declined from the 2012 low of 4.5 percent, a level last seen in 1984, to a new low of 4.4 percent.
• Aging machinery. The average age of the world’s operating nuclear reactors is increasing and by mid-2014 stood at 28.5 years.
• Construction delays. At least 49 of the total of 69 construction sites — including three quarters of the Chinese projects — have encountered delays, many of them multi-annual. Construction of two units in Taiwan was halted.
• Project cancellations. Several projects have been cancelled and new programs indefinitely delayed, including in the Czech Republic and in Vietnam.
• Operating costs soar. Nuclear reactor generating costs jumped 16 percent in real terms in three years in France, and several units were shut down in the US because income does not cover operating costs. The economic survival of nuclear reactors is also threatened in Belgium, Germany and Sweden.
• Renewables trump nuclear. In 2013 alone, 32 gigawatts (GW) of wind and 37 GW of solar were added to the world power grids. By the end of 2013, China had 91 GW of wind power and 18 GW of solar capacity installed, solar exceeding operating nuclear capacity for the first time. China added four times more solar than nuclear reactor capacity in the past year, and Spain generated more power from wind than from any other source, outpacing nuclear for the first time. Also the first time in any country, Spain made wind the largest electricity generating source over an entire year. Spain has thus joined the list of reactor operating countries that produce more electricity from new renewables — excluding large hydro-power — than from its nuclear reactors. The others are Brazil, China, Germany, India and Japan.
For further information and full copies of all previous reports see www.WorldNuclearReport.org. — JL