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WNISR 2015: Executive Summary and Conclusions (HTML and PDF)

Friday 24 July 2015

Paris, London, July 2015.

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Key Insights

  • Japan without nuclear power for a full calendar year for the first time since the first commercial nuclear power plant started up in the country 50 years ago.
  • Nuclear plant construction starts plunge from fifteen in 2010 to three in 2014.
  • 62 reactors under construction—five fewer than a year ago—of which at least three- quarters delayed. In 10 of the 14 building countries all projects are delayed, often by years. Five units have been listed as “under construction” for over 30 years.
  • Share of nuclear power in global electricity mix stable at less than 11% for a third year in a row.
  • AREVA, technically bankrupt, downgraded to “junk” by Standard & Poor’s, sees its share value plunge to a new historic low on 9 July 2015—a value loss of 90 percent since 2007
  • China, Germany, Japan—three of the world’s four largest economies—plus Brazil, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Spain, now all generate more electricity from non-hydro renewables than from nuclear power. These eight countries represent more than three billion people or 45 percent of the world’s population.
  • In the UK, electricity output from renewable sources, including hydropower, overtook the output from nuclear.
  • Compared to 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol on climate change was signed, in 2014 there was an additional 694 TWh per year of wind power and 185 TWh of solar photovoltaics—each exceeding nuclear’s additional 147 TWh.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2015 provides a comprehensive overview of nuclear power plant data, including information on operation, production and construction. The WNISR assesses the status of new-build programs in current nuclear countries as well as in potential newcomer countries. This edition provides an analysis of the evolution of construction starts over time. There are also two new chapters, the first describes the serious delays of Generation III+ reactor projects (including the EPR, AP1000, AES-2006) and analyses their origins. The second looks at the history and development status of so-called advanced reactors. The Fukushima Status Report gives an updated overview of the standing of onsite and offsite issues four years after the beginning of the catastrophe.

The Nuclear Power vs. Renewable Energy chapter provides global comparative data on investment, capacity, and generation, especially from nuclear, wind and solar.

Finally, Annex 1 presents a country-by-country overview of all 30 countries operating nuclear power plants, with extended Focus sections on China, France, and the United States—plus Japan.

Reactor Status and Nuclear Programs

Startups and Shutdowns. In 2014, just as in 2013, five reactors started up (three in China, one in Argentina, one in Russia) and one was shut down (Vermont Yankee in the U.S.). In the first half of 2015, four reactors started up in China and one in South Korea, while two were shut down (Doel-1 in Belgium [2] and Grafenrheinfeld in Germany).

Operation and Construction Data [3]

Reactor Operation. There are 30 countries operating nuclear power plants in the world, one less than a year ago. [4] A total of 391 reactors (three more than a year ago) have a combined installed capacity of 337 GW [5] (5 GW more than a year ago). Not a single unit generated power in Japan in 2014, and WNISR classifies 40 Japanese reactors [6] as being in Long-Term Outage (LTO). [7] Besides the Japanese reactors, one Swedish reactor (Oskarshamn-2) meets the LTO criteria and its majority owner has called for its early closure. There are two units that were in LTO in WNISR2014 that now fall outside the category: one South Korean reactor, Wolsong-1, was restarted in June 2015, and one Indian reactor, Rajasthan-1, is to be decommissioned. Ten reactors at Fukushima Daiichi and Daini are considered permanently closed and are therefore not included in the count of operating nuclear power plants. As of early July 2015, it appears likely that at the most two reactors (Sendai-1 and -2 in Kyushu Prefecture) will restart in Japan during 2015.

The nuclear industry remains in decline: The 391 operating reactors—excluding LTOs—are 47 fewer than the 2002 peak of 438, while the total installed capacity peaked in 2010 at 368 GW before declining by 8 percent to 337 GW, which is comparable to levels last seen two decades ago. Annual nuclear electricity generation reached 2,410 TWh in 2014—a 2.2 percent increase over the previous year, but 9.4 percent below the historic peak in 2006.

Share in Power Mix. The nuclear share of the world’s power generation remained stable [8] over the past three years, with 10.8 percent in 2014 after declining steadily from a historic peak of 17.6 percent in 1996. Nuclear power’s share of global commercial primary energy production also remained stable at 4.4 percent, the lowest level since 1984. [9]

As in previous years, the “big five” nuclear generating countries—by rank, the United States, France, Russia, South Korea and China—generated over two-thirds (69 percent in 2014) of the world’s nuclear electricity in 2014. The U.S. and France account for half of global nuclear generation, and France produces half of the European Union’s nuclear output.

Reactor Age. In the absence of major new-build programs apart from China, the unit-weighted average age of the world operating nuclear reactor fleet continues to rise, and by mid-2015 stood at 28.8 years. Over half of the total, or 199 units, have operated for more than 30 years, including 54 that have run for over 40 years. One third (33) of the U.S. reactors have operated for more than 40 years.

Lifetime Extension. The extension of operating periods beyond original design basis is licensed differently from country to country. While in the U.S. about three-quarters of the reactors have already received license extensions for up to a total lifetime of 60 years, in France, only 10-year extensions are granted and the safety authorities made it clear that there is no guarantee that all units will pass the 40-year in-depth examinations. Furthermore, the proposals for lifetime extensions appear in conflict with the French government’s target to reduce the nuclear share from the current three-quarters to half by 2025. In Belgium, 10-year extensions for two (now three) additional reactors were voted by Parliament but not yet approved by the safety authority; these extensions would not jeopardize the legal nuclear phase-out goal for 2025.

Lifetime Projections. If all currently operating reactors were shut down at the end of a 40-year lifetime, by 2020 the number of units would be 19 below the end of 2014 number, with the installed capacity rising by 1.5 GW. In the following decade to 2030, 188 units (178 GW) would have to be replaced—five times the number of startups achieved over the past decade. If all licensed lifetime extensions were actually implemented and achieved, the number of operating reactors would still only increase by four, and adding 21 GW in 2020 and until 2030, an additional 154 GW (169 new reactors) would have to start up to replace shutdowns.

Construction. As in previous years, fourteen countries are currently building nuclear power plants. As of July 2015, 62 reactors were under construction—five fewer than in July 2014—with a total capacity of 59 GW—5 GW less than a year ago. Almost 40 percent of the projects (24) are in China.

- The current average time since work started at the 62 units under construction is 7.6 years.
- All of the reactors under construction in 10 out of 14 countries have experienced delays, mostly year-long. At least three-quarters (47) of all units under construction worldwide are delayed. The 15 remaining units under construction, of which nine are in China, began within the past three years or have not yet reached projected start-up dates, making it difficult to assess whether or not they are on schedule.
- Five reactors have been listed as “under construction” for more than 30 years. The U.S. Watts Bar-2 project in Tennessee holds the record as its construction began in December 1972. Two Russian units (BN-800, Rostov-4) and Mochovce-3 and -4 in Slovakia have also been worked on for over 30 years. Khmelnitski-3 and -4 in Ukraine are approaching the 30-year mark, with construction times reaching 29 and 28 years respectively. Furthermore, having announced the cancellation of the construction agreement with Russia, that project is expected to experience further delays.
- Two units in India, Kudankulam-2 and the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR), have been listed as “under construction” for 13 and 11 years respectively. The Olkiluoto-3 building site in Finland will reach its tenth anniversary in August 2015, and its owner has stopped announcing planned startup dates.
- The average construction time of the latest 40 units (in nine countries) that started up since 2005—all but one (in Argentina) in Asia or Eastern Europe—was 9.4 years with a large range from 4 to 36 years.

Construction Starts & New Build Issues

Construction Starts. In 2014, construction began on three reactors, one each in Argentina, Belarus, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This compares to 15 construction starts—of which 10 were in China alone—in 2010 and 10 in 2013. China did not start a single new construction in 2014, but had done two in the first half of 2015—so far the world’s only starts in 2015. Historic analysis shows that construction starts in the world peaked in 1976 at 44. Between 1 January 2011 and 1 July 2015, first concrete was poured for 26 new plants worldwide—fewer than in a single year in the 1970s.

Construction Cancellations. Between 1977 and 2015, a total of 92 (one in eight) of all construction sites were abandoned or suspended in 18 countries in various stages of advancement.

Newcomer Program Delays. Only two newcomer countries are actually building reactors— Belarus and UAE. Further delays have occurred over the year in the development of nuclear programs for most of the more or less advanced potential newcomer countries, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Generation III Delays

Twenty-nine years after the Chernobyl disaster, none of the next-generation or so-called Generation III+ reactors has entered service, with construction projects in Finland and France many years behind schedule. Of 18 units of Generation III+ design (eight Westinghouse AP1000, six Rosatom AES-2006, four AREVA EPR), 16 are delayed by between two and nine years. A number of causes for delays have been assessed: design issues, shortage of skilled labor, quality-control issues, supply chain issues, poor planning either by the utility and/or equipment suppliers, and shortage of finance. Standardization did not take place, and the introduction of modularized design seems to have simply shifted the quality issues from construction sites to module factories. Serious defects found in several French pressure-vessel forgings could scuttle the entire EPR enterprise.

Advanced Nuclear Reactor Development Status

The concept for Small Modular Reactors (SMR) has been around for decades. Over a dozen basic designs have been discussed. In the U.S., where the government has been funding SMR development since the 1990s, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has still not received a licensing application for any SMR design. In Russia, a Floating Point Unit design, a sort of swimming reactor, was licensed in 2002. The construction of two reactors began in 2007 but has been delayed repeatedly, partly for financial reasons. In South Korea an SMR design called System-Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor (SMART) has been under development for 20 years. The design was approved by the regulator in 2012, but no unit has been sold. In China, one SMR of the high-temperature gas cooled reactor is under construction. In South Africa, the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor—for a long time considered the most advanced SMR project in the world—was abandoned in 2010, after public expenditure of about US$1 billion, because it attracted no private investors or customers. The design was never completed. India has been developing an Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR) since the 1990s, but none is under construction. In February 2014, Argentina started construction on a small unit, based on the pressurized water reactor, called CAREM, a domestic design that has been under development since the 1980s, reportedly at a cost of US$17,000 per installed kWe, a record for reactors currently under construction in the world. Despite extensive government aid, U.S. development of SMRs is gaining far less market traction than publicity, as SMRs are initially far costlier than uncompetitively costly large reactors, their postulated learning curve relies upon an ability to reduce their cost has never been demonstrated anywhere for nuclear technology, and they face a formidable competitive landscape dominated by efficiency and renewable technologies already decades ahead in capturing their own economies of mass production.

Economics and Finances

AREVA Debacle. The French state controlled integrated nuclear company AREVA is technically bankrupt after a cumulated four-year loss of €8 billion and €5.8 billion current debt on an annual turnover of €8.3 billion. On 9 July 2015, AREVA’s share value plunged to a historic low, 90 percent below its 2007 peak. The company will be broken up, with French-state-controlled utility EDF expected to take the majority stake in the reactor building and maintenance subsidiary AREVA NP that will then be opened up to foreign investment. The move could turn out highly problematic for EDF as its risk profile expands.

Hinkley Point C and State Aid. In December 2014, the U.K. model of Contract for Difference (CFD), a kind of feed-in tariff agreement for nuclear electricity that would provide a generous long-term subsidy for new-build, was accepted by the EU Commission following a formal enquiry into the Hinkley Point C project. However, the Austrian government has filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice against the decision with the Luxemburg government announcing it will join. Separately ten energy companies have also filed a complaint. Serious concerns about the project are reported from within the British Treasury, and needed investors have not yet materialized.

Operating Cost Increases. In some countries (including Belgium, France, Germany, Sweden, and the U.S.), historically low inflation-adjusted operating costs have escalated so rapidly that the average reactor’s operating cost is barely below, or even exceeds, the normal band of wholesale power prices. This has led to a number of responses from nuclear operators. The largest nuclear operator in the world, the French-state-controlled utility EDF, has requested significant tariff increases to cover its operating costs. In Germany, operator E.ON closed one of its reactors six months earlier than required by law. In Sweden, at least four of the ten units will be shut down earlier than planned because of lower than expected income from electricity sales and higher investment needs. In the U.S., utilities are trying to negotiate with state authorities support schemes for reactors that they declare are no longer competitive in current market conditions. In Belgium, it is uncertain whether Electrabel (GDF-Suez) will be able to restart two reactors with serious defects in their pressure vessels.

Fukushima Status Report

Over four years have passed since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident (Fukushima accident) began, triggered by the East Japan Great Earthquake on 11 March 2011 (also referred to as 3/11 throughout the report) and subsequent events. This assessment includes analyses of on-site and off-site challenges that have arisen since and remain significant today.

On-site Challenges. At present, radiation levels remain very high inside the reactor buildings (several Sievert per hour) and make human intervention there impossible. The problems is compounded by problems with various types of robots that have got stuck in the buildings and had to be abandoned. Molten fuel debris removal is planned at units 1 and 2 in the first half of Financial Year (FY) 2020, and at unit 3 in the second half of FY2021. A 30—40-year period is expected to be needed to complete decommissioning, with work to begin in December 2021. Whether these timelines can be implemented remains questionable.

Large quantities of water (about 300 cubic meters per day) are continuously injected to cool the fuel debris. To reduce storage requirements for contaminated water, operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) installed decontamination systems and re-injects partially decontaminated rather than fresh water. However, the systems have achieved only low operation rates because of technical problems and human errors.

Furthermore, due to underground intrusion of water into the basements, which are already filled with highly contaminated water, the net amount to be stored continues to increase by 300 to 400 tons every day, the equivalent of an additional 1,000-cubic-meter storage tank every 2.5 days. The storage capacity onsite is now 800,000 cubic meters, the equivalent of 320 Olympic swimming pools. A groundwater bypass system and a Frozen Soil Wall are in preparation. However, the first trials of the ice wall have been disappointing.

Unit 1. May 2015 marked the beginning of the removal of the building cover—which was installed to reduce the dispersion of radioactive substances to the environment—in order to allow the debris to be removed before starting to unload the spent fuel from the storage pool.

Unit 2. Decommissioning has not progressed beyond the preparatory stages because of high radiation levels.

Unit 3. Debris has been removed from the spent fuel pool and preparations are underway for spent fuel removal.

Unit 4. The first significant milestone, the removal of the spent fuel from the cooling pool, was reached in December 2014. The spent fuel—equivalent in quantity to the other three reactor pools’ contents combined—presented a significant potential hazard in case of a spent-fuel fire.

Off-site Challenges. According to government figures, the number of evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture as of January 2015 was about 120,000 (vs. 164,000 at the peak in June 2013). About 3,200 people have died for reasons related to the evacuation, such as decreased physical condition or suicide (all classified as “earthquake-related deaths”). Among these, about 1,800 people (more than half) are from Fukushima Prefecture. Many evacuated people have given up on returning to their homes even if the restrictions are lifted.

Decontamination Wastes. Waste generated by decontamination activities inside and outside the evacuation area has reached more than 157,000 tons by the end of 2014, according to government estimates.

Cost of the Accidents. The Japanese Government has not provided a comprehensive total accident cost estimate. However, data for individual cost categories already total US$100 billion, of which about 60 percent is for compensation, without taking into account such indirect effects as impacts on food exports and tourism.

Nuclear Power vs. Renewable Energy Deployment

The power sector is in a period of profound transformation. New technology and policy developments favor decentralized systems and renewable energies. As these are generally not owned by incumbent electricity utilities, these developments are at best unfavorable and potentially a real threat for the nuclear industries and utilities.

Investment. After two years of decline, global investment in renewable energy increased to US$270 billion (+17 percent) in 2014, close to the all-time record of $278 billion in 2011, and four times the 2004 total. China alone spent over US$83 billion in 2014 (31 percent of the world’s total), about half each on wind and solar—totaling nine times the amount it invested in nuclear power (US$9.1 billion). Global investment decisions on new nuclear power plants also remained an order of magnitude below renewables investments.

Installed Capacity. Almost half (49 percent) of the added electricity generating capacity was new renewables (excluding large hydro), including 49 GW for new wind power (up from 34 GW added in 2013) and 46 GW of solar photovoltaics (up from 40 GW added in 2013). China accelerated its deployment of wind with 23 GW being added—up from 16 GW added in 2013—equaling 45 percent of the global increase in 2014 and with a total of 115 GW wind capacity installed already exceeding its 2015 goal of 100 GW. China also added 3 GW of nuclear capacity, 65 percent of the global increase.

Since 2000, wind added 355 GW and solar 179 GW—respectively eighteen and nine times more than nuclear with 20 GW. Taking into account the fact that 41 reactors with 37 GW capacity are currently in LTO, operational nuclear capacity meanwhile fell by 17 GW.

Electricity Generation. On average, an installed nuclear kilowatt produces nearly twice the annual electricity of a renewable kilowatt (mix of sources excluding big hydroelectric dams). Nevertheless, in terms of actual production, Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Spain—a list that includes three of the world’s four largest economies—now all generate more electricity from non-hydro renewables than from nuclear power. These eight countries represent more than three billion people or 45 percent of the world’s population. In China, as in the previous two years, in 2014, electricity production from wind alone (158 TWh), exceeded that from nuclear (124 TWh). In the UK, renewables, including hydropower, overtook nuclear output in 2014 for the first time in decades. In the U.S., since 2001, the average growth rate for renewable energy generation has been five percent per year. Of all U.S. electricity, 13 percent was generated by renewables in 2014, [10] up from 8.5 percent in 2007.

In 2014, annual growth for global generation from solar was over 38 percent, for wind power over 10 percent, and for nuclear power 2.2 percent. Compared to 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol on climate change was signed, in 2014 an additional 694 TWh of wind power was produced globally and 185 TWh of solar photovoltaics electricity, each surpassing nuclear’s additional 147 TWh. The figures for the European Union illustrate the rapid decline of the role of nuclear: during 1997—2014, wind produced an additional 242 TWh and solar 98 TWh, while nuclear power generation declined by 47 TWh. In short, the data does not support claims that nuclear production can be expanded faster than, or even nearly as fast as, modern renewables, whose small units and lower capacity factors are more than offset by their short lead times, easy manufacturability and installation, and rapidly scalable mass production.


[2On 18 June 2015, the Belgian Parliament voted legislation to extend the lifetime of Doel-1 and -2 by ten years. However, that decision remains subject to the approval by the national nuclear safety authority. See also section on Belgium in Annex 1.

[3See Annex 1 for a country-by-country overview of reactors in operation and under construction as well as the nuclear share in electricity generation and primary energy.

[4Unless otherwise noted, the figures indicated are as of 1 July 2015.

[5All figures are given for nominal net electricity generating capacity. GW stands for gigawatt or thousand megawatt.

[6Including the Monju reactor, shut down since 1995, listed under “Long Term Shutdown” in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Power Reactor Information System (PRIS), database.

[7WNISR considers that a unit is in Long-Term Outage (LTO) if it produced zero power in the previous calendar year and in the first half of the current calendar year. This classification is applied retroactively starting on the day the unit is disconnected from the grid. WNISR counts the startup of a reactor from its day of grid connection, and its shutdown from the day of grid disconnection.

[8Less than 0.2 percentage points difference between the three years, a level that is certainly within statistical uncertainties.

[9According to BP, “Statistical Review of World Energy”, June 2015.

[10U.S.EIA, “Renewables share of U.S. energy consumption highest since 1930s”, 28 May 2015, see, accessed 14 June 2015.

What They Say…

“The Report sets forth in painstaking detail the actual experience and achievements of nuclear energy around the world.”

Peter A. Bradford

Former commissioner
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
(in his foreword to the 2013 report)
“A vital public service... Uniquely independent, thorough, and timely assessment."

Amory B. Lovins

Chairman, Rocky Mountain Institute
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Praful Bidwai

Financial Chronicle
Delhi, India
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Walt Patterson

Associate Fellow Chatham House
London, UK
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Executive Director Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
Washington DC, USA
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Scott Ludlam

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Fulcieri Maltini

International Consultant Former Director of the Nuclear Safety Account, EBRD
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Editor Nuclear Engineering International
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Associate Editor Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists