Report: Nuclear Share of Global Energy Production Is Lowest Since 1984

According to a report released this week by Mycle Schneider Consulting—a Paris-based independent consultant—nuclear power’s share of global commercial primary energy production declined to only 4.4%, a level not seen since 1984.

In the report, “The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014,” Mycle Schneider suggests that “the nuclear industry is in decline.” One piece of evidence the report cites is that the 388 operating reactors worldwide are 50 fewer than the peak achieved in 2002. The number is misleading, though, because much of the reduction is due to Japan’s nuclear program being in a state of “long-term outage” (LTO) since the Fukushima disaster.

While annual electricity generation from nuclear power reached a maximum of 2,660 TWh in 2006, the total decreased to 2,359 TWh in 2013, amounting to 10.8% of the world’s electricity generation, much less than the high of 17.6% achieved in 1996.

Other notable conclusions from the report include:

  • The average age of the world’s operating nuclear fleet has increased to 28.5 years (as of mid-2014) with over 10% of the total having operated for over 40 years.
  • While 67 reactors are under construction in 14 different countries, at least 49 of them have encountered construction delays, with eight being “under construction” for more than 20 years.
  • “Newcomer countries” have seen delays in development. Although Bangladesh, Jordan, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Vietnam are all said to be seeking nuclear power programs, Belarus is the only new country to have entered the fray with an actual construction project.
  • Capital costs for construction have escalated from roughly $1,000 per installed kilowatt a decade ago to what is expected to be around $8,000 per installed kilowatt for two new units at the Hinkley Point facility in the UK.

The report also compared market trends between nuclear power and renewable energy. As the world looks for carbon-friendly alternatives to fossil fuel generation, these two resources have become direct competitors for deployment. However, wind and solar seem to be winning the battle for new capacity.

In 2013 alone, 37 GW of solar and 32 GW of wind capacity were added throughout the world. In contrast, nuclear capacity has declined by 19 GW since 2000. Again, much of that decrease is due to Japanese reactors being placed in LTO, but even with those reactors considered operational, nuclear capacity would only have increased 17.5 GW during the 14-year period.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)