World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013

Chain Reaction #119, Nov 2013,

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013 (WNISR) was released on July 11. The report looks at nuclear reactor units in operation and under construction, with global statistics and detailed country-by-country information. The report also contains useful material on topics such as potential newcomer countries, the credit-rating performance of some of the major nuclear utilities, the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, and development patterns of renewable energies compared to nuclear power.

Some key facts from the report are listed here.

The number of operating reactors has fallen from the 2002 peak of 444 to the current 427 reactors.

Installed nuclear capacity peaked in 2010 at 375 gigawatts (GWe) before declining to the current level of 364 GWe.

Annual nuclear electricity generation peaked in 2006 at 2,660 terrawatt-hours (TWh), falling to 2,346 TWh in 2012 (down 7% compared to 2011, down 12% from 2006). About three-quarters of this decline is due to the situation in Japan, but 16 other countries, including the top five nuclear generators, also decreased their nuclear generation.

The nuclear share of the world's power generation declined steadily from a historic peak of 17% in 1993 to about 10 percent in 2012. Nuclear power's share of global commercial primary energy production fell to 4.5% in 2012, a level last seen in 1984.

The average age of the world's nuclear fleet continues to increase and in mid-2013 stands at 28 years. Over 190 reactors (45% of the total) have operated for 30 years, of which 44 have run for 40 years or more.

Fourteen countries currently are currently building nuclear power plants, one more than a year ago as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) started construction at Barrakah. The UAE is the first new country in 27 years to have started building a commercial nuclear power plant.

As of July 2013, 66 reactors are under construction (seven more than in July 2012) with a total capacity of 63 GW. However:

  • Nine reactors have been listed as "under construction" for more than 20 years and four additional reactors have been listed for 10 years or more.
  • Forty-five projects do not have an official planned start-up date on the IAEA's database.
  • At least 23 have encountered construction delays, most of them multi-year. For the remaining 43 reactor units, either construction began within the past five years or they have not yet reached projected start-up dates, making it difficult or impossible to assess whether they are on schedule or not.
  • Two-thirds (44) of the units under construction are located in three countries: China, India and Russia.
  • The average construction time of the 34 units that started up in the world between 2003 and July 2013 was 9.4 years.

Only three reactors started up in 2012, while six were shut down. In 2013, up to 1 July, only one reactor started up, while four shutdown decisions − all in the U.S. − were taken. Three of those four units faced costly repairs, but one (Kewaunee, Wisconsin) was running well and had received a license renewal just two years ago to operate up to a total of 60 years; it simply became uneconomic to run.

Engagement in nuclear programs has been delayed by most of the potential newcomer countries, including Bangladesh, Belarus, Jordan, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

In 2012, construction began on six reactors and on three so far in 2013, including on two units in the US. Those two units have been offered over US$8 billion in federal loan guarantees and other subsidies whose total rivals their construction costs, and special laws have transferred financial risks to the taxpayers and customers.

Additional costs arising from upgrading and backfitting measures following the lessons of the Fukushima crisis are only beginning to surface. They are likely to have substantial impact on investment as well as operational costs.

Nine out of 14 major utilities assessed in the WNSIR saw their earnings decline over the past five years while 13 constantly increased their debt level.

Over the past five years, 10 out of 15 assessed nuclear utilities were downgraded by credit rating agency Standard and Poor's, four remained stable, while only one was upgraded.

Renewable energy

In spite of a slight decrease in global investment in 2012, partly reflecting rapidly falling equipment prices, renewable energy development continues its rapid expansion in both, capacity and generation. China, Germany and Japan, three of the world's four largest economies, as well as India, now generate more power from renewables than from nuclear power.

Global investment in renewable energy totalled US$268 billion in 2012, down from US$300 billion the previous year but still five times the 2004 amount.

Globally, since 2000, the annual growth rates for onshore wind power have averaged 27% and for solar photovoltaics 42%. This has resulted in 2012 in 45 GW of wind and 32 GW of solar being installed, compared to a net addition of 1.2 GW of nuclear. China has a total of 75 GW of operating wind power capacity, roughly doubled in each of the past five years.

For the first time, China and India generated more power from wind than from nuclear plants in 2012, while in China solar electricity generation grew four-fold in one year.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report is posted at


World Nuclear Association and IAEA scale back projections

A new World Nuclear Association (WNA) report, 'The Global Nuclear Fuel Market: Supply and Demand 2013-2030', revises and reduces the Association's pre-Fukushima projections of nuclear power growth. Compared to current installed capacity of 334 GWe, the WNA projections range from a lower scenario of no net growth, a reference scenario of 72% growth (574 GWe by 2030; 3.0% annual growth) and an upper scenario of two-fold growth (700 GWe in 2030; 4.2% annual growth).

Both the upper scenario and the reference scenario are "significantly lower" than the projections in the WNA's 2011 report. World Nuclear News reports: "The lower projected rate of growth of the nuclear sector in the latest edition of the WNA market report (compared with the 2011 edition) reflects the current and expected increased level of challenges facing utilities aiming to commission new nuclear power plants. These challenges are not only a result of the post-Fukushima calls for the industry to demonstrate higher levels of safety, but also the need to cope with stronger competition from alternative generating technologies at a time of more modest power demand growth expectations."[2]

In the reference scenario, uranium demand would reach 97,000 tonnes by 2030, from today's level of 62,000 tonnes. Provided that all uranium mines currently under development enter service as planned, the report finds that the uranium market should be adequately supplied to 2025; beyond this time new mines need to be operating.[2]

The IAEA has recently released its Annual Report for 2012, projecting nuclear power growth of 23% to 100% percent by 2030.[3] As with the WNA, the IAEA has scaled back its nuclear growth projections. The report notes that last year the UAE became the first country in 27 years to break ground on its first nuclear power plant. On the disposal of spent nuclear fuel, the IAEA report notes that most of its 158 member states have delayed the construction of repositories.

Historically, upper scenarios from the WNA and IAEA have always been fanciful, whereas lower scenarios are usually much closer to the mark.

[1] World Nuclear Association, 'The Global Nuclear Fuel Market: Supply and Demand 2013-2030',

[2] World Nuclear News, 12 September 2013, 'Uranium supply and demand in balance for now',

[3] IAEA Annual Report 2012,