Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

In 2022, nuclear power’s future looks grimmer than ever.

As new renewable energy capacity continues to boom, nuclear power generation declined in 2021 and the industry’s future is grimmer than it has ever been. The post In 2022, nuclear power’s future looks grimmer than ever appeared first on RenewEconomy.

In 2022, nuclear power’s future looks grimmer than ever — RenewEconomy Renew Economy, Jim Green 11 Jan 22,

The decline was marginal (<1 per cent): a net loss of two power reactors (six start-ups and eight 8 permanent closures) and a net loss of 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity.

The marginal decline makes for a striking contrast with renewables. The International Energy Agency calculates that new renewable capacity added in 2021 amounted to nearly 290 GW – that’s more than four times Australia’s total electricity generating capacity.

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. Renewables reached an estimated 29 per cent share of global electricity generation in 2020, a record share.

The ageing of the world’s reactor fleet is a huge problem for the nuclear industry, as is the ageing of its 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.

Primarily because of the ageing of the reactor fleet, the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates up to 139 GW of lost nuclear capacity from 2018-2030 due to permanent reactor shutdowns, and a further loss of up to 186 GW from 2030-2050.

So the industry needs about 10 new power reactors (or 10 GW) each year just to maintain its 30-year pattern of stagnation. And there were indeed 10 reactor construction starts in 2021, six of them in China.

But the average annual number of construction starts since 2014 has been just 5.1. Thus, slow decline of nuclear power is the most likely outcome. An extension of the 30-year pattern of stagnation is possible, if and only if China does the heavy lifting. China has averaged just 2.5 reactor construction starts per year since 2011.

Phasing out nuclear power

The number of countries phasing out nuclear power steadily grows and now includes:

Nuclear power generation declined in 2021 and the industry’s future is grimmer than it has ever been.

The decline was marginal (<1 per cent): a net loss of two power reactors (six start-ups and eight 8 permanent closures) and a net loss of 2.5 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity.

The marginal decline makes for a striking contrast with renewables. The International Energy Agency calculates that new renewable capacity added in 2021 amounted to nearly 290 GW – that’s more than four times Australia’s total electricity generating capacity.

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. Renewables reached an estimated 29 per cent share of global electricity generation in 2020, a record share.

The ageing of the world’s reactor fleet is a huge problem for the nuclear industry, as is the ageing of its 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.

Primarily because of the ageing of the reactor fleet, the International Atomic Energy Agency estimates up to 139 GW of lost nuclear capacity from 2018-2030 due to permanent reactor shutdowns, and a further loss of up to 186 GW from 2030-2050

So the industry needs about 10 new power reactors (or 10 GW) each year just to maintain its 30-year pattern of stagnation. And there were indeed 10 reactor construction starts in 2021, six of them in China.

But the average annual number of construction starts since 2014 has been just 5.1. Thus, slow decline of nuclear power is the most likely outcome. An extension of the 30-year pattern of stagnation is possible, if and only if China does the heavy lifting. China has averaged just 2.5 reactor construction starts per year since 2011.

Phasing out nuclear power

The number of countries phasing out nuclear power steadily grows and now includes:

Germany: Fourteen reactors have shut down since the 2011 Fukushima disaster and the final three reactors will close this year.

Belgium: The country’s seven ageing reactors will all be closed by the end of 2025.

Taiwan: Final reactor closure scheduled for 2025. Four reactors were shut down from 2018 to 2021 and only two remain operational.

Spain: Nuclear power capacity is expected to decline from 7.1 GW in 2020 to 3 GW in 2030 with the final reactor closure in 2035.

Switzerland: The government accepted the results of a 2017 referendum which supported a ban on new reactors and thus a gradual phase-out is underway. The Mühleberg reactor was shut down in 2019 and most or all of the remaining four ageing reactors are likely to be shut down over the next decade.

South Korea: Long-term (2060) phase-out policy with concrete actions already taken including the shut-down of the Kori-1 and Wolsong-1 reactors in 2017 and 2019 respectively, and suspension or cancellation of plans for six further reactors. The current plan is to reduce the number of reactors from a peak of 26 in 2024 to 17 in 2034.

Too cheap to meter or too expensive to matter?

Despite the abundance of evidence that nuclear power is hopelessly uncompetitive compared to renewables, the nuclear industry and some of its supporters continue to claim otherwise.

Those economic claims are typically based on implausible cost projections for non-existent ‘Generation IV’ reactor concepts. Moreover, the nuclear lobby’s claims about the cost of renewables are just as ridiculous.

Claims about ‘cheap’ nuclear power certainly don’t consider real-world nuclear construction projects. Every power reactor construction project in Western Europe and the US over the past decade has been a disaster.

The V.C. Summer project in South Carolina (two AP1000 reactors) was abandoned after the expenditure of at least A$12.5 billion leading Westinghouse to file for bankruptcy in 2017. Criminal investigations and prosecutions related to the project are ongoing, and bailout programs to prolong operation of ageing reactors are also mired in corruption.

The only remaining reactor construction project in the US is the Vogtle project in Georgia (two AP1000 reactors). The current cost estimate of A$37.6-41.8 billion is twice the estimate when construction began. Costs continue to increase and the project only survives because of multi-billion-dollar taxpayer bailouts. The project is six years behind schedule.

In 2006, Westinghouse said it could build an AP1000 reactor for as little as A$2.0 billion, 10 times lower than the current estimate for Vogtle.

The Watts Bar 2 reactor in Tennessee began operation in 2016, 43 years after construction began. That is the only power reactor start-up in the US over the past quarter-century. The previous start-up was Watts Bar 1, completed in 1996 after a 23-year construction period.

In 2021, TVA abandoned the unfinished Bellefonte nuclear plant in Alabama, 47 years after construction began and following the expenditure of an estimated A$8.1 billion.

There have been no other power reactor construction projects in the US over the past 25 years other than those listed above. Numerous other reactor projects were abandoned before construction began, some following the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Western Europe

The only current reactor construction project in France is one EPR reactor under construction at Flamanville. The current cost estimate of A$30.1 billion — yes, over A$30 billion — is 5.8 times greater than the original estimate. The Flamanville reactor is 10 years behind schedule.

The only reactor construction project in the UK comprises two EPR reactors under construction at Hinkley Point. In the late 2000s, the estimated construction cost for one EPR reactor in the UK was A$3.8 billion. The current cost estimate for two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point is A$41.6-43.5 billion, over five times greater than the initial estimate of A$3.8 billion per reactor.

In 2007, EDF boasted that Britons would be using electricity from an EPR reactor at Hinkley Point to cook their Christmas turkeys in 2017, but construction didn’t even begin until 2018.

One EPR reactor (Olkiluoto-3) is under construction in Finland. The current cost estimate of about A$17.4 billion is 3.7 times greater than the original estimate. Olkiluoto-3 is 13 years behind schedule.

Nuclear power is growing in a few countries, but only barely. China is said to be the industry’s shining light but nuclear growth has been modest over the past decade and it is paltry compared to renewables (2 GW of nuclear power capacity added in 2020 compared to 135 GW of renewables).

There were only three power reactor construction starts in Russia in the decade from 2011 to 2020, and only four in India………………………………  https://reneweconomy.com.au/in-2022-nuclear-powers-future-is-grimmer-than-ever/

January 11, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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