4 August 2014

Vox (US): The rise and fall of nuclear power, in 6 charts

The rise and fall of nuclear power, in 6 charts

Updated by Brad Plumer on August 1, 2014, 1:30 p.m. ET @bradplumer brad@vox.com

Nuclear power is slowly going out of style. Back in 1996, atomic energy supplied 17.6 percent of the world’s electricity. Today that’s down to just 10.8 percent — and it could drop even further in the years ahead.

“Many reactors are closing — and new reactors have been bogged down by delays”

That’s according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014, which charts the rise and fall of nuclear power over time.

The upshot is that significantly fewer nuclear reactors are in operation today than was the case in 2010 — in large part due to the shutdown of 48 reactors in Japan after the Fukushima disaster. On the flip side, only China currently has plans to massively ramp up reactor construction. And new reactors in many countries, from Finland to Vietnam, are falling victim to delays and cost overruns.

That’s not encouraging news for efforts to tackle global warming. The proportion of energy that the world gets from carbon-free sources has stagnated since 1999 — in part because of the nuclear industry’s struggles. And the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that reducing emissions will be significantly more expensive if nuclear power’s not available.

Here are six key charts from the report: