Report: Renewable energy overtaking declining nuclear

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Only 1.2GW of nuclear generation capacity was installed last year globally compared to 32GW of solar, according to a report proclaiming the end of the “nuclear renaissance”.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013, published yesterday, was written by numerous academics and independent energy consultants as a “reality check” on global use of nuclear energy.

It claims that with global electricity generation from nuclear decreasing “historically” by 7% last year, nuclear power is in decline as a power source compared to renewable energies.

The report singled out solar and wind as energy forms that were beginning to rival nuclear.

It said that 80% of those it surveyed thought renewables would be able to compete with major power and utilities sectors, and that “all forms of solar will not need subsidies to compete” by 2030.

The largest investment in renewable energy was in utility-scale renewable energy parks, and second was in rooftop solar PV installations.

A graph in the report shows in 2011, a peak of US$300 billion was invested in new renewables in comparison with just a few billion on new nuclear projects, calling the total investment in nuclear as “nearly an order of magnitude lower” than that for renewable energy.

One of solar’s major advantages over nuclear is the average construction time, at 8-15 years depending on the countries experience. The report states the costs of renewable energy construction has fallen, whereas nuclear energy construction costs have risen.

The report claims that now “new nuclear power plants are amongst the most expensive generation options available”.

There is significantly less construction and growth of nuclear, or plants are running for fewer hours, producing less energy and lowering prices to compete with other energy sources.

Now “nuclear investment and deployment has been outstripped by renewable energy” and renewables are now seen as a “major competition”, it said.

The report puts the decline of nuclear and the rise in solar and other renewable energies down to continuous deployment, which is “reducing dependency on fossil fuels and reducing importers’ security-of-supply concerns.”

Renewable energy is expanding rapidly in capacity and generation, with China, Germany and Japan, and India, now generating more power from renewables than from nuclear power.

By introducing an alternative to the “monopoly” of nuclear, in North America the report says “renewables are fundamentally threatening utilities’ business model with ‘radical bypass’”, by undercutting current capacity and making them less, or completely unprofitable.

And in Europe, an increase in renewables with almost no running costs, is “squeezing out” more traditional utilities and their investors. 

In the report’s foreword, Peter A. Bradford, former member of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), accuses Wall Street and US state legislature of having “chloroformed public opposition” against nuclear.

He said nuclear power “requires obedience, not transparency” and nuclear rhetoric and nuclear reality has impeded “wise energy policy decisions for half a century now”.

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