24 September 2020

The WNISR2020 Assesses Challenges Nuclear Power is Facing in the Age of COVID‑19

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR2020), released on 24 September 2020, assesses in 361 pages the status and trends of the international nuclear industry and analyzes the additional challenges nuclear power is facing in the age of COVID-19. For the first time we report includes as specific chapter analyzing nuclear programs in the Middle East as the first reactor started up in the Arab world.

Seven interdisciplinary experts from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Lebanon/U.S. and the U.K., from top think tanks like Chatham House in London and prestigious universities like Harvard in Cambridge, Meiji in Tokyo and Technical University in Berlin, have contributed to the report, along with a data engineer, numerous proofreaders and two artistic designers. The foreword was provided by Frank von Hippel, Professor Emeritus of Princeton University, and Jungmin Kang, former head of the safety authority in South Korea.

The number of operating reactors in the world has dropped by nine over the past year to 408 as of mid-2020, that is below the level already reached in 1988, and 30 units below the historic peak of 438 in 2002.

New renewable resources like wind and solar power increased by 184 gigawatts last year, while nuclear power grew by only 2.4 gigawatts. As a result — for the first time in history — renewable sources (excluding hydropower) generated more power than nuclear plants in 2019.

“Nuclear energy has become irrelevant in the electricity generating technology market,” said Mycle Schneider, the coordinator of the report. “At the same time, COVID-19 puts additional stress on the sector.” Co-author Antony Froggatt, Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House, London, added: “In economic terms renewables continue to pull away from nuclear power, over the past decade the cost estimates for utility-scale solar dropped by 89 percent, wind by 70 percent, while nuclear increased by 26 percent.”

The report highlights the particular impact of COVID-19, the first pandemic of this scale in the history of nuclear power. These include:

Notably, only one national operator – in Russia – reported weekly on infections among nuclear staff. As of mid-July, Rosatom reported a total of 4,500 cases.

The new chapter focusing on nuclear programs in the Middle East assesses whether the first nuclear plant in the Arab world is a pilot project or an exception for the region considering the spectacular advances of competing solar power. Contributing Author Ali Ahmad, Research Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School comments: “The progress made on the UAE’s Barakah project, despite its own delays, is unlikely to be replicated elsewhere in the region because of the structural drivers that, together, made the Barakah project possible.”

The question of Small Modular Reactors is frequently being debated and a chapter analyses the status of the programs around the world. Contributing Author M.V. Ramana, Professor at the University of British Columbia, Canada, states: “Small Modular Reactors continue to be the focus of much of the discussion about the future of nuclear power but they have so far been suffering many of the development problems experienced in large nuclear power plant projects, especially deadlines for licensing and construction being pushed back and costs increasing.”

This independent report has contributions from seven interdisciplinary experts from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Lebanon/U.S. and the U.K., from top think tanks like Chatham House in London and prestigious universities like Harvard in Cambridge, Meiji in Tokyo and Technical University in Berlin, have contributed to the report. The foreword was provided by Frank von Hippel, Professor Emeritus of Princeton University, and Jungmin Kang, former head of the safety authority in South Korea.

Author bios are available here. Previous editions of the WNISR can be viewed and downloaded here.

Contacts

Mycle Schneider
Email: mycle@worldnuclearreport.org
Cell: +33-6-20 63 47 37

Antony Froggatt
Email: antony@froggatt.net
Phone: +44 20 7923 0412

You can download the PDF version of the 2020 Report:

World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2020
Low definition PDF
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World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2020
High definition PDF
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For your convenience, all the tables and graphs from this report are also downloadable in PDF format. The individual files are listed in the following pages:

All the graphs from the 2020 report
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All the tables from the 2020 report
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From the Foreword

“We congratulate the authors and editors of WNISR for their objective and in-depth coverage of a very controversial subject. We hope this effort will continue. The nuclear industry will be with us for decades to come. How it evolves will impact the future of international security as well as the future energy supply. It needs watching and we are grateful that WNISR is doing so.”

Jungmin Kang is South Korea’s member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials and was, during 2018, the Chairman of the Korea Nuclear Safety and Security Commission.

Frank N. von Hippel is a Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs emeritus at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.