Key results of the assessment include:
• Only seven new reactors started up, while 19 were shut down in 2011. On 5 July 2012, one reactor was reconnected to the grid at Ohi in Japan and another unit is expected to generate power on the site within two weeks. However, it remains highly uncertain, how many others will receive permission to restart operations in Japan.
• Four countries announced that they will phase out nuclear power within a given timeframe.
• At least five countries have decided not to engage or re-engage in nuclear programs.
• In Bulgaria and Japan two reactors under construction were abandoned.
• In four countries new build projects were officially cancelled. Of the 59 units under construction in the world, at least 18 are experiencing multi-year delays, while the remaining 41 projects were started within the past five years or have not yet reached projected start-up dates, making it difficult to assess whether they are running on schedule.
• Construction costs are rapidly rising. The European EPR cost estimate has increased by a factor of four (adjusted for inflation) over the past ten years.
• Two thirds of the assessed nuclear companies and utilities were downgraded by credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s over the past five years.
• The assessment of a dozen nuclear companies reveals that all but one performed worse than the UK FTSE100 index. The shares of the world’s largest nuclear operator, French state utility EDF, lost 82 percent of their value, that of the world’s largest nuclear builder, French state company AREVA, fell by 88 percent.
In contrast, renewable energy development has continued with rapid growth figures.
• Global investment in renewable energy totaled US$260 billion in 2011, almost five times the 2004 amount. Over the same period, the total cumulative investment in renewables has risen to over US$1 trillion, which compares to nuclear power investment decisions of about $120 billion.
• Installed worldwide nuclear capacity decreased again in 2011, while the annual installed wind power capacity increased by 41 GW in 2011 alone. Installed wind power and solar capacity in China grew by a factor of around 50 in the past five years, while nuclear capacity increased by a factor of 1.5. Since 2000, within the European Union nuclear capacity decreased by 14 GW, while 142 GW of renewable capacity was installed, 18 percent more than natural gas with 116 GW.
• In Germany, for the first time, power production from renewables was only second to lignite, exceeded coal, nuclear power and natural gas. The German renewable electricity generation thus corresponded to 29 percent of French nuclear production.
“The market for nuclear is shrinking year by year, while renewable energy deployment continues at pace and in an ever increasing number of countries. With nuclear power becoming more expensive than a widening range of renewable energy technologies this trend will only continue”, said Antony Froggatt, co-author of the report.
“The fact that plant life extension seems the most likely survival strategy of the nuclear industry raises serious safety issues. Most critically will be to what extent and for how long nuclear safety authorities will be in a position to withstand growing pressure from nuclear utilities to keep operating increasingly outdated technology”, states lead author Mycle Schneider.
One third of the nuclear countries generated their historic maximum of nuclear electricity in 2011, which raises troubling questions on the extent of the nuclear safety assessments or so-called “stress tests” carried out around the world after 3/11.