Australian news, and some related international items

Nuclear power’s long decline in shadow of wind and solar

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021 (WNISR) was released overnight.  For nearly 30 years, these reports have provided important factual antidotes to industry promotion and obfuscation. This year’s report is the work of 13 interdisciplinary experts from across the world.

Naoto Kan, Japan’s Prime Minister at the time of the Fukushima disaster, writes in the foreword: “As Prime Minister of Japan at the time of the disaster, I now believe that the time has come for Japan and the world to end its reliance on nuclear power.”

In broad terms, nuclear power has been stagnant for 30 years. WNISR notes that the world’s fleet of 415
power reactors is 23 fewer than the 2002 peak of 438, but nuclear capacity and generation have marginally increased due to uprating and larger reactors being built.

There is one big difference with the situation 30 years ago: the reactor fleet was young then, now it is old. The ageing of the reactor fleet is a huge problem for the industry (as is the ageing of the nuclear workforce ‒the silver tsunami). The average age of the world’s reactor fleet continues to rise, and by mid-2021 reached 30.9 years. The mean age of the 23 reactors shut down between 2016 and 2020 was 42.6 years. The International Atomic Energy Agency anticipates the closure of around 10 reactors or 10 gigawatts (GW) per year over the next three decades.

Reactor construction starts need to match closures just for the industry to maintain its 30-year pattern of stagnation. But construction starts have averaged only 4.8 per year over the past five years, and
there’s no indication of looming growth. Nuclear power’s contribution to global electricity supply has fallen from a peak of 17.5 percent in 1996 to 10.1 percent in 2020 (a 4.3 percent share of global commercial primary energy consumption).

Renewables reached an estimated 29 percent share of global electricity generation in 2020, a record share. Non-hydro renewables(10.7 percent in 2020) overtook nuclear in 2019 and the gap grew in 2020.


In addition to a vast amount of energy data, WNISR includes detailed analyses of the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters; the vulnerabilities of nuclear power to the impacts of climate change (e.g. dwindling and warming water resources, storm impacts, sea-level rise, etc.); and a chapter on nuclear decommissioning.

WNISR details the slow and unsteady progress of small modular reactors. The report notes that “so-called advanced reactors of various designs, including so-called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), make a lot of noise in the media but their promoters have provided little evidence for any implementation scheme before a decade at the very least.”

WNISR notes that previous reports have covered irregularities, fraud, counterfeiting, corruption, and other criminal activities in the nuclear sector. This year’s report dedicates a chapter to nuclear criminality and includes 14 case studies with serious implications (safety, public governance) that came to trial in the period 2010-2020.

The report states:

“A stunning number of revelations in recent years on irregularities, fraud, counterfeiting, bribery, corruption, sabotage, theft, and other criminal activities in the nuclear industry in various countries suggest that there is a systemic issue of “criminal energy” in the sector. …

“Although not comprehensive, this analysis offers several noteworthy insights:

* Criminal activities in the nuclear sector are not new. Some major scandals date back decades or have been ongoing for decades.

* Organized crime organizations have been supplying workers to nuclear sites — e.g. the Yakuza in Japan — for over a decade.

* Serious insider sabotage has hit major nuclear countries in recent years — like a Belgian nuclear power plant — without ever leading to arrests.

 There is no systematic, comprehensive, public database on the issue.

* In 2019, the IAEA released a report on cases of counterfeit or fraudulent items in at least seven countries since at least the 1990s.

* In Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index about half of the 35 countries operating or constructing nuclear power plants on their territory rate under 50 out of 100.

* In the Bribery Payers Index (BPI, last published in 2011), seven out of the ten worst rated
countries operate or are building nuclear power plants on their territory.”

Author: Dr. Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth Australia

 Renew Economy 29th Sept 2021

September 30, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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