World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013

The latest edition has been released yesterday.

Here are a couple of facts from that report.

By early 2009, 31 applications for new reactors were pending in the United States. Only four started actually building, none of that with private capital. Operating reactors are being closed as uneconomic for the first time in fifteen years (Foreword).

Nuclear is in decline. Capacity peaked at 375 GW in 2010 (down to 364 GW in 2012, counting 42 reactors in Japan currently not operating). Generation has peaked in 2006 at 2,660 TWh and was down to 2,346 TWh in 2012. As a share of World electricity, nuclear peaked at 17 percent in 1993 and has declined ever since, to around 10 percent last year.

Since there are no major new building programs, the average reactor age is 28 years, with over 190 unites already operating for more than thirty years.

Average construction time for the 34 units that have started operations in the last decade was 9.3 years.

In 2012, three reactors started up while six were shut down. In the first half of 2013, one reactor started up, and four were shut down. Again, that excludes 42 reactors currently not running in Japan.

The share value of the world’s largest nuclear operator, French state utility EDF, went down by 85 percent over the past five years, while the share price of the world’s largest nuclear builder, French state company AREVA, dropped by up to 88 percent (all of the above facts cited from the “Executive Summary”).

Nuclear load factors in Japan have plunged to 3.7% in Japan in 2012 (page 13).

In the last decade, there were 31 new reactors and 51 shutdowns (page 16). The decade between 2020 and 2030 would need 205 new units to just keep the existing capacity (page 23). That is close to seven times the record for the past decade.

Only 31 countries, or 16 percent of the Members of the United Nations, are operating nuclear reactors (page 18).
They cite one analyst with this opinion on “Small Modular Reactors”:

As a matter of physics, reactors don’t scale down well; that’s why they’re big. If you try to overcome this handicap by capturing economies of mass production, you quickly run up against a fatal competitor called Small Modular Renewables (and efficiency techniques). Those do scale down very well; they currently outcompete new reactors by severalfold; and they’re already decades ahead of SMRs in exploiting their mass-production economies (they’re attracting a quartertrillion dollars of private investment per year), and will be another decade ahead by the time an SMR could be demonstrated. So SMRs might have been worth considering a half-century ago, but today they’re far too late. End of story.

Renewable energy wins by close to an order of magnitude in the amount of yearly investments. Nuclear has been unable to break even $40 billion for any of the last ten years. In contrast, the last number for renewable (not including large hydro) for 2012 was $268 billion (pages 73 and 74, pay special attention to figure 18).

In 2012, 32 GW of solar and 45 GW of wind have been added to the grid, with a net addition of 1.2 nuclear (page 75).

Nuclear production is down 50 TWh compared to 2000 in 2012, and solar is up 50 TWh, making up exactly what nuclear has lost. Meanwhile, wind is 500 TWh up (Figure 20).

That’s it for the facts. Now a couple of comments.

Clearly nuclear is in decline. Counting on it for your global warming strategy is “dangerous and delusional”, to give that compliment right back to Mark Lynas, who somehow thinks that renewable won’t be able to do the job alone.

The remaining 10 percent of electricity (not energy) nuclear provides is nice to have as a low carbon source. But it’s not ever such a big deal. We’re talking about 80 percent renewable in Germany until 2050, mandated by law. There won’t be any market left for nuclear in a couple of decades anyway. We certainly don’t need it to get fossil fuel under control.

If anything, with the exponential growth rather ahead of most schedules we are seeing for renewable energy, 100 percent renewable will probably be realized much faster than 2050. I certainly recommend speeding things up.

One of the conditions for doing that is to stop listening to people who want to slow down renewables because their business model for nuclear energy depends on keeping renewable energy down. Keeping the above facts about the nuclear decline will help with that task.


Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

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