Can Nuclear Get Over its Bad Reputation?

Energy demand projections suggest we'll need to add tremendous amounts of renewable generation capacity to meet the coming increase. Some say it won't be possible without nuclear. So, can nuclear get over its bad reputation?

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I don't see a bright future for nuclear energy in the coming years. Currently 50 new reactors are under construction worldwide but more than half of them are based in just 3 countries : China (15) , India (7)  and Russia (4) - all three are also military nuclear power and therefore have a strategic interest in maintaining a nuclear industry.

There is a growing number of countries phasing out nuclear energy since Fukushima and the rising costs of the new generation reactors associated with the falling price of solar energy are hitting hard the nuclear industry.

The total global generating capacity for nuclear power is 345 gigawatts (GW). This is down from a peak of 378GW in 2005, largely as a result of reactors being taken offline post-Fukushima.

Today, there are 400 reactors operating across 31 nations. Most were built in the two decades after 1970, giving the world’s fleet an average age of 29. This average varies regionally. Most nuclear power plants originally had a nominal design lifetime of 25 to 40 years but the current trend is to extend the operating lifetimes from 40 to 60 years.  

Over 1996-2015, 75 reactors were retired as 80 started operation. There are no firm projections for retirements over the next two decades, but the World Nuclear Association estimates that at least 80 of those now operating will close by 2035. The 2017 edition of the Association's Nuclear Fuel Report has 140 reactors closing by 2035 in its reference scenario.

I'm not sure there will be enough new reactors to compensate to the retiring reactors in the coming decades. I think the share of nuclear energy in the world energy mix will stay at around 5% or will even be reduced.

Nuclear energy problem is not only the bad reputation but its also a growing difficulty to be cost competitive against other energies.

 

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