Australian news, and some related international items

World Nuclear Association figures continue to paint a misleading picture of the industry.

To say that the French nuclear industry is in crisis is perhaps an understatement. There are obviously flow on effects on the European power industry

in China solar and wind projects are on steep cost declines, while the cost of nuclear builds continues to rise.

Nuclear Industry Challenged: Solar And Wind Winning The Low Carbon Competition, Seeking Alpha ,  

  • Significant delays in nuclear implementation in China, with targets not met.
  • France has 20 of 58 nuclear reactors out of action.
  • Vietnam abandons plans to build nuclear reactors with Japan and Russia.
  • Switzerland can’t give its reactors away.

World Nuclear Association figures continue to paint a misleading picture of the industry.

With substantial action on climate change and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions becoming a major focus, one might expect that the nuclear industry would be a substantial beneficiary.

The big picture on nuclear power

recent report (The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016) examines the proposal for decarbonising the world economy and there is a section comparing proposals involving renewable energy (solar, wind power) in comparison with nuclear initiatives. The report is comprehensive and provides a lot of factual information about the industry.

Perhaps a key fact is that in 2015, despite it being a good year for the nuclear industry, with nuclear power increasing by 31 TWh (almost all of it in China), renewable energy increase was 250 TWh (8x more than new nuclear capacity).

Ten reactors started up in 2015. While this was more than for any year since 1990, construction of ALL of these reactors was commenced prior to the Fukushima disaster.

In 2010 there were 15 constructions started; in 2015 there were 8 starts, while in the first half of 2016 no construction starts happened.

The number of units under construction has declined for the third year in a row. There were 8 early closures of nuclear plants in 2015.

In 9 of 14 countries currently building nuclear plants, all projects are delayed and mostly by several years. Chile suspended and Indonesia abandoned nuclear plans in 2015.

In 2015 globally, wind power grew by 17%, solar by 33% and nuclear by 1.3%.

Some highlights/lowlights

The above describes the key insights in the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016.

Here I show that recent developments in France, China, Switzerland and Vietnam are even more challenging for the nuclear industry, notwithstanding major pressure on fossil fuel exploitation as a result of the COP21 agreement becoming binding.

France……. France is not at the end of this crisis yet. All told there are 87 irregularities concerning operational EDF reactors in France, plus 20 issues concerning parts for the Flamanville 3 EPR reactor. There are also other irregularities indicating unacceptable practices in the French nuclear industry.

Since France has been a major figure in the worldwide nuclear industry, questions are being asked about reactors in other parts of the world, including China, Finland, Belgium and the UK. Japanese steel forger JCFC has built partsfor a number of Japanese nuclear reactors, including the Sendai No 2 reactor, which is one of the few Japanese nuclear reactors in operation.

It isn’t suggested that these problems suggest imminent failure, but EDF is being cautious considering the massive implications for a nuclear accident. Recent evaluation has suggested carbon content of the steel in some components (0.39%) being almost double the design specification of 0.22% carbon.

It has been reported as of 25 October to a French Parliamentary hearing that 1-2 more years are needed to check out the reported irregularities. The situation as of October 2016 is that 6 affected French nuclear plants have been given approval to restart, while 7 are being inspected as part of planned outages. Five more have been ordered off-line for checks; 3 more are scheduled to be unavailable through the winter and 1 has been shut down following detection of an irregularity.

To say that the French nuclear industry is in crisis is perhaps an understatement. There are obviously flow on effects on the European power industry….


Will the above issues confronting the French nuclear industry impact the recent UK decision to proceed with the major Hinkley Point C development?

Given that the (still under development) French Flamanville 3 reactor is affected by the French nuclear problems and no new generation reactor is yet operable, one wonders whether the Hinkley Point C project will ever see commercial operation. Indeed the steel casing for EPR reactors in China (two reactors in Taishan) and that proposed for Hinkley Point C (2 reactors) uses/plans to use construction with a similar Areva forging technique used at Flamanville 3.


China is the country which carries the future of the nuclear industry. Nuclear power has been part of China’s plans to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, along with hydropower, solar and wind energy. Hydro, solar and wind have all overachieved in terms of China’s initial goals.

Nuclear developments have been more problematic after Fukushima, which led to a review of the program. Today the goal is for 58 GW of nuclear power to be installed and operational by 2020. Currently there are 31.4 GW operating and 19.3 GW under construction. This leaves a shortfall of 7.3 GW, so that the 58 GW goal seems almost certain not to be met.

Just as is happening everywhere else in the world, in China solar and wind projects are on steep cost declines, while the cost of nuclear builds continues to rise.


The Vietnamese Parliament has decided to stop nuclear plans……..

World Nuclear Organisation

Given the slowdown in China, the disaster in France, Vietnam’s decision to stop two nuclear developments and aging nuclear fleets around the world, there are few reasons for optimism, especially for nuclear power in the developed world. India is perhaps the exception.

However, an uncritical viewing of the World Nuclear Organization website exhibits none of these concerns.

Indeed the World Nuclear Association continues to claim 436 operable nuclear reactors worldwide, notwithstanding that a significant proportion of these reactors (notably in Japan) have not operated for more than 5 years.

recent report “World Nuclear Performance Report 2016, Asia Edition” presents an optimistic view of the industry. It is perhaps relevant to read that report with the knowledge of the kinds of announcements that provide the content in this article.


The Fukushima nuclear accident changed the course of the nuclear industry, not only in Japan but globally. The recent problems in France exacerbate the problem and raise issues about new projects such as Hinkley Point C. Developments in other countries (Switzerland, Vietnam) all point to acceleration of the trend away from nuclear power as the world decarbonises. Unlike China’s continued acceleration of renewable energy build, its nuclear program is not meeting its targets.

On the other hand while there is controversy about oversupply of solar PV panels and many solar companies (e.g. First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR)) are trading near year lows, there is every sign that solar companies will become major beneficiaries from the COP21 agreement and declining prospects for the nuclear industry. Of course wind is an essentially carbon free energy source that complements solar PV. Contrarian investors with a long term view might well look at opportunities in solar and wind before these companies come out of the shadows….

November 27, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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