Report: Global nuclear generation increases, but market growth slows

Global nuclear generation capacity increased by 4.2 GW to 373.1 GW, and the number of operational reactors increased by two units to 437 reactors around the world in 2012, according to the Vital Signs Online trend published by the Worldwatch Institute. The increases are net figures, taking into account new plants, decommissioned reactors, and units returned to service after being offline for a certain period.

The report says nuclear energy is the only mainstream energy technology that does not show significant growth, and nuclear’s share of the world’s primary energy supply fell from 6.4 percent in 2002 to 4.5 percent in 2012. Nuclear capacity expansion has slowed considerably, with just 75 GW of capacity added over the last 25 years, compared to 296 GW during the preceding 25 years.

“Three key factors account for the stagnancy of nuclear power,” said Alexander Ochs, Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy Director and a co-author of the trend. “The first and most important one is that nuclear energy is not cost competitive with fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. It is just too expensive. Second are safety concerns. After the many accidents we have had over the years – with Chernobyl, Fukushima and Three Mile Island just a few examples of some of the worst incidents; problems occur on a regular basis. And despite stricter oversight in some countries, public opposition to nuclear energy is high almost everywhere in the world. Finally, the storage of nuclear waste still remains unsolved. Nobody really knows what to do with it and nobody wants to have the hazardous material sit in their backyard.”

The U.S. is still the world’s leading producer of nuclear power with 104 reactors and 102.1 GW of capacity. However, France has a higher share of nuclear in overall power production, with 58 reactors supplying 75 percent of the country’s energy, compared to 19 percent in the U.S.

To read the entire report, click here.

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