EnergyPost and the Financial Times have graced the New Year with in-depth reviews of the nuclear industry (NP Jim Green: 31.1.18 & FT Andrew Ward 4.2.18). NP say we are entering the world of overall nuclear decommissioning because the third period mini nuclear boom was halted and reversed by the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. This meant that the World Nuclear Association expected 19 new reactor start ups in 2017 (all development is time lagged) but only4 made it, 1 in Pakistan and 3 in China. That year 5 closed down, So the WNA was very wrong. So how about the "wrongness" of it's other forecasts ? The article quotes a run down from 30 starts in 20i9/20 to 12, 9 and then only 2 in 2024/5. The WNA further says that 10 new reactor starts per year is required to maintain global status quo. Remember, these are the most optimistic figures....EP's editor is quoted as saying 2017 was "all in all a disastrous year" for nuclear power.
The FT starts with the Hinkley C site which covers the equivalent of 250 football pitches. Their metric for where the global industry has got to is that its output peaked in 1996 after a 62 year expansion, when it produced 17.6% of global electricity. Today its share has dropped to about 11% as new renewable industries have taken off. Over half of world nuclear reactors are now over 30 years old. And total new reactor build is half in China, the world population leader, and almost 80% of the rest are outside the rich OECD world. Lots more too.
But the story is not just general industrial trends. There is a crucial economic question, admitted by the UK government and EDF chiefs in particular. New UK EDF chief Simone Rossi told the FT that "We do not say that nuclear should go ahead at any price. We need to demonstrate that it also makes sense for the consumer". In the UK that means a lower nuclear "strike price" of about £65-70 is still well above trend wholesale electricity prices of £45-50, while new offshore wind has just reached £52 and falling fast. This means nuclear has to be subsidized one way or another. Global news here is clear: 3 major US states are having to consider subsidies for their old nuclear plants (Exelon story, Platts News 2.2.18). And a University College report (FT 5.2.18) says UK electricity prices for industry are on average 33% higher than Europe's (EU). That means Brexit will see continued high prices for UK industry, plus more, if industry is deemed a "consumer", if the government forces more nuclear through. If domestic consumers have to pay the lot, watch those bills rise !