Nuclear Renaissance or Technology Geriatrics? Bridging the Gap between Perception and Industrial Reality
About the Event
Contrary to public perception, the nuclear power industry continues its slow, decades-long decline. Over the past two decades, 99 reactors were connected to the grids in the world while 105 were closed. Since 49 of the startups and no closures were located in China, the reactor fleet in the rest of the world declined by 55 units. Did the trend change in recent years? No. In 2022, nuclear power production outside China dropped by 5 percent to its lowest level since the mid-1990s. Since December 2019, all of the 28 reactor construction-starts in the world were implemented either in China (17) or by the Russian nuclear industry (11) in various countries.
Even in China, nuclear expansion remains modest. In 2022, three reactors with a combined 2.2 GW of capacity came online compared to 125 GW of wind and solar. Nuclear power is irrelevant in the global market place for electricity generating technologies. In the meantime, the existing nuclear fleets are aging—US reactors average 42 years on the grid—and are struggling in many countries with unplanned or excessively long outages for inspections, maintenance, and repairs. The largest nuclear operator in the world, French state-owned utility EDF, carries a net debt load of US$70 billion. Its nuclear fleet’s annual load factor—equivalent hours at full nominal capacity—dropped to 52 percent in 2022. The best performing Scottish wind farm averaged 54 percent over the past five years. While the impression is that of a blooming sector, the nuclear industry is struggling in all areas, especially with its fierce renewable energy competitors.
About the Speaker