What Nuclear Energy Renaissance?

ZURICH – Repeatedly in recent years there have been calls for a revival of civilian nuclear power. Yet that renaissance never seems to come. 

Indeed, of the more than 200 countries in the world, only 30 use nuclear power. In July 2010, a total of 439 nuclear power plants with a net installed capacity of 373.038 GW(e) were connected to various national electricity grids, about 1.2 GW(e) more than at the beginning  of 2006.

Roughly 16% of total energy needs (up to 25% in the highly industrialized countries) are now met by electric energy. Nuclear fission’s contribution to total electric energy has decreased from about 18% more than ten years ago to about 14% in 2008. On a worldwide scale, nuclear energy is thus only a small component of the global energy mix, and its share, contrary to widespread belief, is not on the rise.

During 2009, for example, nuclear power plants provided 2,560 TWh(e) (2,560 billion kWh) of electric energy, about 1.6% lower than during 2008 and almost 4% lower than during the record year of 2006, when 2,658 TWh(e) were produced. Early results for the first four months of 2010 for the OECD countries, collected by the International Energy Agency indicate that so far the 2010 results are as low or lower than during the last year.