Nuclear power took an unprecedented plunge in 2020


The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021 (WNISR2021) has been published and, as always, delivers an important quantity of empirical data confirming the continued decline of nuclear power.

The 2021 edition assesses the status and trends of the international nuclear industry, and contains several focus chapters, including a first assessment of Nuclear Power and Climate Change Resilience. A special Fukushima Status Report – 10 Years After provides an overview of ongoing onsite/offsite challenges, health impacts, judicial decisions, and cost estimates of the disaster. Chernobyl – 35 Years After the Disaster Began looks at advances in the cleanup and remaining challenges. For the first time, WNISR dedicates a chapter to the problem of Nuclear Power and Criminal Energy. Key conclusions of WNISR2021 include:

  •  In 2020, nuclear power generation plunged by un an unprecedented margin (>100 TWh), except for the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima events (2011–12), while operational nuclear capacity has reached a new peak in mid-2021. More capacity, less output.
  •  Non-hydro renewables—mainly wind, solar and biomass—out-performed nuclear plants in electricity generation on a global scale. Hydro alone has been generating more power than nuclear for most of the past three decades.
  •  For the first time, non-hydro renewables generated more power in the European Union than nuclear, and renewables including hydro generated more power than all fossil fuels combined.
  •  Net nuclear capacity addition—new startups minus closures—declined to 0.4 GW, compared to >250 GW for renewables alone. Nuclear is irrelevant in today’s electricity capacity newbuild market.
  • Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) get a lot of media coverage, some public money, but are so far unavailable commercially and will not be for another 10–15 years—if ever. Pilot projects in Argentina, China, and Russia have been disappointing.
  •  The situation at Fukushima, onsite/offsite, remains unstable. Effects on health and well-being are significant. Cost estimates have risen, currently range from US$223.1 billion (Gov.) to US$322–758 billion (independent). Japanese courts have acquitted Government/TEPCO officials over disaster responsibility but ruled against reactor operation in some cases.
  •  Nuclear power demonstrated a high sensibility to the COVID-19 pandemic. A first analysis shows that it has a low resilience against the most common climate change effects. Nuclear’s resilience will likely further decline.
  •  There is a real question about the exposure of the nuclear power sector to criminal activities including bribery and corruption, counterfeiting and other falsification, as well as infiltration by organized crime.

You can download the full report here.

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