Posted by Big Gav in nuclear power
The Climate Spectator has a look at the collapse of the "nuclear renaissance" - The nuclear renaissance is stone cold dead.
The figures are in: 2013 was an annus horribilis for the nuclear power industry − its third in a row − and the nuclear renaissance can now be pronounced stone cold dead.
The most that could be said for the 2013 figures − four reactors connected to grids, four permanently shut down − is that they weren't as bad as the previous year. Nuclear power suffered its biggest ever one-year fall in 2012 − nuclear generation fell 7 per cent from the 2011 figure.
Nuclear generation fell in no less than 17 countries, including all of the top five nuclear-generating countries. Nuclear power accounted for 17 per cent of global electricity generation in 1993 and it has steadily declined to 10 per cent now.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has downwardly revised its projections, and now anticipates nuclear capacity growth of 23 per cent to 100 per cent by 2030. Historically, the IAEA's upper projections have been fanciful, while its low projections also tend to be too high (by 13 per cent on average) but provide a reasonable guide nonetheless. So growth of 23 per cent by 2030 − annual growth of a little over 1 per cent − is about as much as the industry can realistically hope for.
The IAEA will further reduce its projections when it factors in last year's annus horribilis. Perhaps the most striking developments were in the United States, where the industry is finding it increasingly difficult to profitably operate existing reactors − especially ageing reactors requiring refurbishments − let alone build new ones. Almost half of the world's reactors have operated for 30 years or more, so the problem of ageing reactors is starting to come into sharp focus.
Peter Bradford, a former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, notes that by 2009, applications for 31 new reactors in the US were pending. "The 31 proposed reactors are down to four actually being built and a few others lingering on in search of a licence, which is good for 20 years," Bradford writes. "Those four are hopelessly uneconomic but proceed because their state legislatures have committed to finish them as long as a dollar remains to be taken from any electric customer's pocket. Operating reactors are being closed as uneconomic for the first time in 15 years."