The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) welcomes the 2020 edition of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report. This independent report is undertaken by a series of international experts from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Lebanon/U.S. and the U.K, as well as from top think tanks like Chatham House in London and prestigious universities like Harvard in the United States, Meiji in Tokyo, Japan and the Technical University in Berlin, Germany. (1)
Amongst its core conclusions are:
- The world’s operating nuclear fleet is now at a 30 year low.
- The number of operating nuclear 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 away from the historic peak of 438 in 2002.
- Nuclear power is the most expensive energy source except for gas peaking plants.
- For the first time, in 2019 renewable energy sources out-performed nuclear power in terms of global generation.
The report also consider the impact that Covid-19 is having on the nuclear industry. It noted:
- The U.S. nuclear regulator granted site operators permission to impose extremely long work hours, with some working 16 hours a day and 86 hours a week.
- In Russia and Sweden control-room staff were isolated in on site housing.
- In France, workers walked off at least three reactor sites, considering their health and safety were not appropriately protected.
- Force-on-force exercises in the U.S. were suspended, leading to a degraded readiness level.
- In many cases, refuelling and maintenance outages have been altered to eliminate “noncritical work” or were deferred entirely to the end of the year or even into 2021.
- Numerous fuel-chain and research facilities were shut down.
NFLA note that the coordinator of the report, Mycle Schneider, commented:
“Nuclear energy has become irrelevant in the electricity generating technology market. At the same time, Covid-19 puts additional stress on the sector.”
NFLA also notes the comment made by a report co-author Antony Froggatt, who is a Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House, London: “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.”
NFLA were particularly interested in a chapter on Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, which have been heavily touted by Rolls Royce, the UK Government and some Councils which would like to see them developed. Report co-author, M V Ramana commented on their development: “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.”
In the UK, Hitachi have just halted all investment on developing new nuclear reactors at Wylfa in Anglesey, a heavily indebted EDF are struggling to find the funds to complete Hinkley Point C, and have said the Sizewell C reactor can only be developed with heavy central government financial support; whilst there remains real security concerns over Chinese investment in these sites and the proposed Bradwell B site.
For NFLA, the key statistic in the report is the rapidly growing renewable sector, which even the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has welcomed in his speech to the United Nations this week. (2) Local authorities are playing an important role in that work. Just this week for example, five Greater Manchester Councils announced funding for a clean energy project that will develop 10 renewable schemes – creating a blueprint for UK regions aiming for net zero carbon emissions.
The 3-year £17.2m project – part-funded with £8.6m from the European Regional Development Fund – will capitalise on under-utilised council-owned sites and buildings, to develop 10 Megawatts of solar PV and hydro-electric generation, battery storage, electric vehicle (EV) charging, and smart energy management systems. (3)
NFLA Welsh Forum Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:
“The World Nuclear Industry Status report shows in definitive detail how the nuclear sector is stalling all across the world, despite a torrent of public relation media releases from it. That evidence can be seen in the UK too, where new nuclear plans at Sellafield Moorside, Wylfa and Oldbury have been ditched and others remain in a precarious position. Meanwhile renewables are going from strength to strength as they are more easily realisable, benefit from continuous innovation and have none of the safety concerns endemic in new nuclear power. I encourage the UK Government to read this report carefully and finally come to the conclusion that renewable energy is the answer to the climate emergency and delivering low carbon energy.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for Editors:
(1) World Nuclear Industry Status Report, 24th September 2020
(3) Manchester City Council 23rd September 2020