Nuclear energy is a relatively small industry, but one with big problems. It covers just one-sixteenth of the world’s primary energy consumption, a share set to decline over the coming decades.
The average age of operating commercial nuclear reactors is 23 years. This means that more power stations are being shut down than built. In 2007, world nuclear production fell by 1.8 % and the number of operating reactors was 439, five less than the historical peak of 2002.
In terms of new power stations, the amount of nuclear capacity added annually between 2000 and 2007 was, on average, 2,500 MW. This was six times less than wind power (13,300 MW per annum between 2000 and 2007). In 2007, newly constructed renewable energy power plants in Germany generated 13 TWh of electricity – as much as two large nuclear units.
Despite the rhetoric of a ‘nuclear renaissance’, the industry is struggling with a massive increase in costs and construction delays, as well as safety and security problems linked to reactor operation, radioactive waste and nuclear proliferation
The dangers of nuclear power
Although the generation of electricity through nuclear power produces much less CO2 than fossil fuels, there are multiple threats to people and the environment from its operations. The main risks are:
- Nuclear proliferation
- Nuclear waste
- Safety risks
According to the Greenpeace energy (r)evolution scenario, by 2020, the global share of nuclear energy electricity drops from today’s worldwide 15% down to 6%. After 2030, the share is only 1%.
Source: Greenpeace energy (r)evolution scenario