Nuclear power losing in importance world-wide
The world-wide renaissance of nuclear power that has so often been predicted will not take place in the next few decades. Nuclear energy will be on the decline till the year 2030, and will continue to decline in importance globally.
This is the conclusion of the Swiss “Prognos” institute based in Basel. Germany’s Federal Agency for Radiation Protection in Salzgitter / Lower Saxony commissioned “Prognos” to carry out a survey on “the renaissance of nuclear energy”. The task was to provide a realistic estimate of the future development of nuclear energy world-wide till the year 2030. The most important results are reproduced below:
No renaissance – nuclear power in decline
  • The study does not anticipate a renaissance in the use of nuclear energy by the year 2030. On the contrary, shutdowns of aged plants will lead to a decrease in the total number of reactors, and there will be a significant decline in installed capacity and electricity generation from nuclear power plants.
  • Compared to the reference level of March 2009, the number of nuclear power stations in operation worldwide is likely to decrease by 22% by the year 2020, and by about 29% by the year 2030.
  • Despite an increase in construction activity of nuclear power stations compared to construction in the last 10 years, the level of the building boom of the 1970s/80s will not be reached again.
“Prognos” expects the number of new nuclear power plants to decline by 29 per cent by the year 2030 (left); an overview of nuclear reactors in Europe
Almost 30% fewer nuclear power stations by 2030
  • Although the number of announcements of new nuclear power stations is on the increase, in the past the ambitious expansion plans – particularly in the USA, but also in other countries – have subsequently not materialized. The study anticipates that about 23% of all the projects announced by ATW, the German ”International Journal for Nuclear Power” for the period until 2020 will be realized, whilst about 35% of the projects announced by the World Nuclear Association (WNA) for the period until 2030 will be realized.
  • The forecast will be impacted particularly by the assumptions made with respect to the remaining lifetime of existing nuclear power stations and the extent to which the announcements made by China, Russia, the USA, India and Japan are implemented.
  • If all the projects announced were to be realized, this would mean an increase in construction activity that would overshadow the rapid increase in construction activity at the beginning of the 1970s. This seems extremely unlikely at the present time.
Western Europe and the USA have the highest number of nuclear power plants worldwide
Nuclear energy in decline
  • Even by comparison to the forecast rapid growth in world-wide electricity consumption, nuclear energy will decline significantly in importance by the year 2030. The percentage of world-wide electricity generation accounted for by nuclear energy will decline from 14.8% in the year 2006 to an estimated 9.1% in the year 2020, and to 7.1% in the year 2030.
  • Other scenarios – such as the “low” scenario of the OECD/Nuclear Energy Agency and the reference scenario of the World Energy Outlook 2008 by the International Energy Agency – also indicate that nuclear energy will have a declining share of world-wide electricity generation. The development of output forecast in this study is most closely aligned with the results of the current “phase out life extension” scenario of the OECD-NEA.
The background: there are currently 436 nuclear power stations in operation, whose average age is already 24 years. The number of reactors has been declining since the year 2002, when there were still 444 reactors connected to the grid. However, many construction projects are now getting bogged down, and work on several of them has been stopped for years. In actual fact, there are only 37 new nuclear reactors currently under construction. This will not be enough to compensate for the decline world-wide.
The forecast of the Swiss researchers is close to the lowest prognoses of OECD experts that also indicate that nuclear energy is going to play a lesser role on a global level
436 nuclear reactors world-wide
The media have reacted with glee to the completely contrary results arrived at by the “Prognos” researchers compared to the construction boom predicted for nuclear power stations that has never actually come to pass. “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, for instance, gloated: “The mythical renaissance of nuclear power.” Everything has been prepared for the big comeback of nuclear power that will never even take place!
There are plans as far as the eye can see. Poland is looking for a site for a new nuclear power station, possibly not far from the German border. Switzerland is intending to build new reactors. The United Kingdom has invited investors. Italy has overturned its exit from nuclear power, as has Sweden. A new reactor is under construction in Finland, and in France too. Everything seems to have been prepared for the big renaissance of nuclear power. But only in theory. In reality, the role played by reactors will decline over the next few years. Many nuclear projects world-wide are already at a standstill. In view of the growing financing problems and political instability, only a third of the planned new projects will be realized world-wide. At best. And wherever construction is under way, there are also problems, the “Süddeutsche” continues. Many projects that were thought to be dead certs are about to be cancelled.
Prognos AG, Basel?
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Studies (detailed literature with downloads on pages 78–89)
Germany Federal Agency for Radiation Protection 
IEA: World Energy Outlkook 2008 & 2009
International Journal for Nuclear Power:
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