World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021

Nuclear power is becoming less and less important

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021, published on September 28, shows very clearly: nuclear power is becoming less and less important. In 2020, nuclear power generation plunged by un an unprecedented margin (>100 TWh), except for the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima events (2011–12), while operational nuclear capacity has reached a new peak in mid-2021. More capacity, less output.

  • Non-hydro renewables—mainly wind, solar and biomass—out-performed nuclear plants in electricity generation on a global scale. Hydro alone has been generating more power than nuclear for most of the past three decades.
  • For the first time, non-hydro renewables generated more power in the European Union than nuclear, and renewables including hydro generated more power than all fossil fuels combined.
  • Net nuclear capacity addition—new startups minus closures—declined to 0.4 GW, compared to >150 GW for renewables alone. Nuclear is irrelevant in today’s electricity capacity newbuild market.
  • Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) get a lot of media coverage, some public money, but are so far unavailable commercially and will not be for another 10–15 years—if ever. Pilot projects in Argentina, China, and Russia have been disappointing.
  • The situation at Fukushima, onsite/offsite, remains unstable. Effects on health and well-being are significant. Cost estimates have risen, currently range from US$223.1 billion (Gov.) to US$322–758 billion (independent). Japanese courts have acquitted Government/TEPCO officials over disaster responsibility but ruled against reactor operation in some cases.
  • Nuclear power demonstrated a high sensibility to the COVID-19 pandemic. A first analysis shows that it has a low resilience against the most common climate change effects. Nuclear’s resilience will likely further decline.
  • There is a real question about the exposure of the nuclear power sector to criminal activities including bribery and corruption, counterfeiting and other falsification, as well as infiltration by organized crime.

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