Is Nuclear in Decline or Not?

A mantra may have no substance yet if it is asserted enough times, people start believing it. People are especially receptive if the mantra fits in with the pre-conceptions and beliefs.
On two comments (Here & Here) I recently recieved such a mantra. No doubt the author fully believes what he has written. He is not a liar. Just a receptive victim of misinformation.

This is what commentator said:
I would just say you should make note of what is happening in reality - long-term global decline in nuclear energy, exponential growth in renewable energy. 
Or you can just look at the reality of what is happening all over the world. Wind is growing at an exponential rate while nuclear power is in long-term decline. 

On the face of it, thanks to the propaganda, that sounds plausible. By chance I was doing some more research on Fukushima and I came across this.

Fukushima Impacts Global Nuclear Generation in 2011

In this article there was a graph (reproduced below). The rest of the article was an eye opener as well.

In fact since 1971 electrcal generation by nuclear (world-wide) has been on a continuous upward trend, with a small dip starting in 2007. This upward trend was restarted in 2010 but the Japanese and German shut downs have forced the 2011 figure down by 4%.

So, far from fading away over the years, nuclear electricity generation has been steaming ahead for the last forty years, and although it has levelled off for the past few years, it continues to do so. It is in fact about to resume this upward trend, and with a vengence.

New plant has been continuously coming on line. Even in 2011 (the year of Fukushima) there was an additional 4GW of new plant (at the average global nuclear capacity factor of 80% that is 3.2GW continuous) that incidentally is the equivalent of some 6400 2MW wind turbines (running at the average global wind turbine CF of 25%.), but of course, excludes the wind intermittency and gas backup the turbines require.

The Chinese have 25 nuclear plant in build. They did suspend issuing licences for a further three due to Fukushima but that has not stopped the others.

The global deployment rate of 5 new plants per year is about to double and should reach one per month by 2015. Others are leveraging their existing plant by upgrading their generation capacity.

In 2011 beside the panic in Japan and the hysteria in Germany only one nuclear plant shut down. That was Oldham - a clapped out Magnox reactor nearly 50 years old.

So, nuclear is very far from being in decline.

I could also argue that wind, while truly undergoing a very rapid expansion is hardly going up exponentially and is wholly driven by a long term unsustainable subsidy based culture. But maybe more on that in another post.

While our politicians dither or bend to hysteria (like they did in Germany) the rest of the world is embracing modern nuclear and shows no sign of retrenching, whatever the wind industry or the fashionable green cults like the WWF and Greenpeace like to say.

But sadly, for us in the UK, the future is less clear.

Unless someone in government gets a grip, there is the distinct possibility that in a few years the country that first pioneered nuclear generation (i.e. the UK) will be unable to provide its people with reliable and on-demand electricity.

The prospect of energy shortages and blackouts get closer by the day.


RayF said...

So, even though the chart you reference from a pro-nuclear blog shows nuclear in decline for many years, you conclude that it is not?!

Latest stats from the IEA show nuclear down 12% year on year.

E.ON, RWF, Siemens and other nuclear corporations have announced that they are abandoning new nuclear. Germany, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Thailand, and a growing list of countries are all committed to a nuclear-free future.

No matter how much the pro-nuclear people do not want to believe it, the reality is that nuclear power is in global decline.

With a new French president committed to reducing France's dependence on expensive nuclear energy, things are not looking good for this highly toxic technology that has received hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies for the past 60 years. Without those massive subsidies, the entire nuclear industry would implode!!

P.S. Here's a graph that gives you a better clue to what is happening - - you must read more reliable sources to understand >>why<< that is happening.

BilloTheWisp said...

Look at the graph Ray.

The highest ever year for nuclear output (since nuclear power started) was in 2006. The next highest year, ever, was 2010. True (as I stated) there was retreat 2007-2009. As a consequence of the Japanese and German shut downs, (partially compensated by new plant coming on line elsewhere in the world) there was an overall global 4% reduction in 2011.

Where is your retreat for "many" years?

But whatever. The fact is (whether you like it or not) that a great deal of nuclear plant, especially in China will be coming on line in the next few years.

Whether I want this, or you don't want this is immaterial. It is going to happen.

The trend will continue upwards.

RayF said...


As you are refusing to allow comments through that prove how confused and wrong you are then there is no point carrying on trying to educate you.

Sadly, it comes as no surprise that you would behave in this dishonest way.

Good luck trying to force reality to conform to your beliefs!

BilloTheWisp said...


In the last two days alone, you have posted no less than 13 comments.

Many of your comments are diatribes of several hundred words each. Several of these have been issued in quick succession on the same post. My blogger account has unilaterally started identifying your posts as spam and has been putting them in the spam bin.

This obsession has ceased to be legitimate commenting and has reduced your contributions (some of which are good) to an example of trolling.

Last night I replied to no less than four of your comments before I gave up. While I am prepared to listen to your arguments I am not prepared to be chanted at.

The purpose of a blog dialog is to express arguments in a cogent fashion and so influence the writer/reader. It is not there to service your ego or balm narrow minded bigotry

If you do not wish to comment further that is fine. It is also fine if you do wish to comment, but if you do please obey the basics
of polite argument.

Firstly bigging yourself up while denegrating others when you have no idea of the expertise of the people you are addressing is trite.

Secondly, while offering links to documents you consider important is good, you do need to address the relevance of some of them or at least highlight the areas you think important. Likewise criticising my documents is good but that criticism should consist of cogent arguments rather than simply raging against them because they fail to match your political dogma.

You may of course, choose to read or not read this blog as you so wish.


Rober2D2 said...

What I can see in the graphic is that nuclear energy growth became slowlier since 1985-86, becaming almost stagnated since 2002, and declining since 2006. No matter if there are some new reactors under construction. Many of the old ones built in the 60s will be closed in a few years, and the new ones are not enough to replace them.

BilloTheWisp said...

Hello Rob,
Thanks or the comment. I (sort of) agree with your analysis of the graph, but would add a little more detail.
The rise to around 1985 was not far off expontential. Then as you say it rose more slowly, but this rise (although it wavers about a bit)
was fast enough to nearly double the world nuclear output over the 25 year period 1985- 2010. Since 2006, which was the peak world output for nuclear, it has fallen back. Although I would prefer to say it levelled off around a peak value, I can accept that from your viewpoint it has stagnated from roughly the mid 2000's.

Old plant will also be shut down. The Uk retired an old Magnox reactor at Oldbury losing 400MWe last year. But that is as it should be. All reactors have a life span so they will all eventually be retired. However there are currently 63 reactors worldwide being built in 15 different countries. There are perhaps 3 times that number in various stages of planning. Almost all of these reactors are 1GW or more. Some like the Flamaville reactor is four times the size of the retired Oldbury reactor.

The IAEA estimates that the current build rate will increase nuclear capacity by 20% on top of the 2010 (i.e. near peak) figure within the
next eight years (2020) and will potentially more than double the 2010 output in less than twenty years. (2030)
There is an (admittedly pro-nuclear) article with reference to IAEA data here:

It doesn't really matter though whether you are pro or anti nuclear. These are factual figures from the International Atomic Energy Authority, they are simply being reported in this reference article.

These figures, and the build-in-progress figures relate to the actuality of the situation, not to supposition.

The prospect of nuclear falling back into longterm decline is currently really quite remote.

Rober2D2 said...

The IAEA is a pronuclear organization (In fact it is THE pronuclear organization), and it's estimations about future nuclear growth are always exagerated. Many of the reactors they list as planned will never be built (Reactor plans are cancelled often. It has happened many times since the oil crisis in 1973).

I agree that production grew from 2009 to 2010, but the truth is that the percentage of electricity produced from nuclear sources declined from it's 17% peak to around 12% in 2011. Far from becoming more important, the production of nuclear energy is becoming less significative each year, and since 2006 it has even decreased in raw numbers (while usage of all other energy sources grew)

It's true that India and China will build a nice amount of nuclear plants, but they just won't be enough.

BilloTheWisp said...

Well Rob,
If you don't want to believe a factual statement regarding nuclear deployment from the IAEA (actually part of the UN) how about
this OECD report (reuters article below)
(actual pdf here)

Or the World Energy Council (report here)

Or the EIA 2011 Energy Outlook (here)

They all say roughly the same thing. Nuclear is undergoing a large expansion especially in the far east.

So really Rob, it looks like your assertations really do have the whiff of denialism about them.

It is simply pointless trying to bend the truth to match your pre-conceptions. As you know I think wind power is a waste of time, but if I denied that large numbers of turbines will be built would be equally foolish.

You may not like Nuclear but denying factual data to prop up a fiction about long term nuclear decline is worse than wishful thinking.

I imagine one of the problems you have is that you do not want to believe that anyone could disbelieve your fears over nuclear energy. Perhaps, instead of pretending that there is some form of IAEA conspiracy to fake the numbers, you should re-evaluate your position and try and understand why many people (myself included) believe the current paranioa over nuclear power is ridiculously overblown.