Is nuclear power dead? The facts about the world’s Nuclear Power Plants

Love it, or loathe it, nuclear power remains one of the most enticing sources of 'clean and reliable' electricity available today. However, with the surge in renewables, like wind turbines and hydroelectric power, PIF asks whether nuclear power stations have had their day?

The case for nuclear power stations

Nuclear power
France's Energy Minister, Segolene Royal, has said that the heavily nuclear reliant country should build a new generation of nuclear reactors to replace their ageing plants, according to the Reuters newswire. His statement of intent is the first time a government member has explicitly approved such action.

Over the next few years, France must take a critical decision as to whether it will continue to bankroll its nuclear industry, with as much as half of its 58 reactors set to reach their designed 40-year age limit by the onset of the 2020s.

Whilst Royal's 'energy transition bill', which is under review by the Senate after a first version passed through parliament's lower house last year, seeks to cut France's nuclear energy output from 75 to 50 per cent of their overall electricity mix. That by no means heralds their exit from the nuclear power process. Far from it in fact.

EDF's board has adopted part of its big maintenance plan with my agreement," Royal said. "We must now also programme the construction of a new generation of reactors, which will replace old plants when these cannot be renovated anymore.

The Independent reported on a recent endorsement of nuclear power from a surprising source of advocates. “In an open letter published on the Brave New Climate blog, more than 65 biologists, including a former UK government chief scientist, support the call to build more nuclear power plants as a central part of a global strategy to protect wildlife and the environment,” according to their Science Editor, Steve Connor.

The case against nuclear power stations

Nuclear power plant
In the United States, Vermont’s only nuclear power plant stopped sending electricity to the New England grid at the tail end of last year, following more than 42 years, or 171bn kilowatt-hours, of electricity production. Cheap natural gas supplies, from shale gas extraction, spelled its death knell. It is a familiar story, indicative of a wider malaise, as Vermont Yankee became the fourth U.S. nuclear facility to close in two years.

As another nuclear power plant closed this week, the United States faced a dwindling fleet of ageing reactors, few new projects, and the challenge of safely mothballing radioactive fuel for decades, reported National Geographic.

By 2050, almost all of America's near 100 remaining reactors will be more than 60 years old by 2050 and, with cheaper fuel alternatives abundantly available, the impetus to upgrade these ailing and costly facilities seems distinctly lacking.

Watch this video of a tour round a Canadian Nuclear Power Plant.


Across the Atlantic, Europe's industrial and economic powerhouse, Germany, has already begun the process of mothballing its decrepit nuclear power stations in favour of renewable energy alternatives. Their national energy transition plan sets out bold targets to phase out nuclear power by 2021. That comes amid an aggressive pursuit of supplying 80 per cent of their electricity needs from renewables by 2050.

In 2003, renewables represented approximately 8% of Germany’s electricity mix,” according to the Scientific American blog. “A decade later, this number has risen to just over 23% and is expected to continue along this positive trajectory moving forward.

PIF's conclusion about Nuclear Power

It's clear to us that nuclear power is teetering on the brink. With cheaper, greener, more sustainable options becoming more readily available the big question for governments across the world is: “Can we really afford to put more money into upgrading, or rebuilding, our creaking nuclear power stations?” We suspect that market forces, as well as environmental concerns, may dictate the answer.

Could it really be RIP nuclear power? You tell us.

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