Nuclear power declines while renewable energy take the lead

Politicians who are reluctant to accept that wind power and other renewables could be the driving force behind Europe achieving a low-carbon future in the next 40 years should read a new report that says the nuclear industry is in decline.

Published by the Worldwatch Institute in Washington D.C. a global environmental research organisation, and with the support of the Greens-EFA party in the European Parliament, the 84-page report noted that annual capacity additions of renewables have been outpacing nuclear start-ups for the past 15 years.

Called “Nuclear Power in a Post-Fukushima World,” the report said that in 2010, for the first time, the cumulative installed capacity of wind farm power (197 GW), small hydro power (80 GW), biomass and waste-to-energy (65 GW), and solar power (43 GW) reached 381 GW, outpacing the installed nuclear energy capacity of 375 GW prior to the March disaster in Japan.

“The industry was arguably on life support before Fukushima. When the history of the nuclear industry is written, Fukushima is likely to begin its final chapter,” Mycle Schneider, lead author of the new report, said in an accompanying press release.

Total investment in renewable energy technologies has been estimated at €164 billion in 2010, the report said, adding every nuclear power plant under construction in the world was chosen by central planners: not one was a free-market purchase fairly competed against or compared with alternatives.

“By contrast, renewable electricity generators rule the marketplace, providing half the world’s new generating capacity in 2008–09,” the report said. “But while wind and solar power boom, nuclear and coal-plant orders wither.”

The report went on to say that while the earthquake and tsunami in Japan shut down 11 of the nation’s nuclear reactors, the Japanese Wind Power Association stated there was no wind facility damage reported by any association member.

“Within three weeks of the disaster, Fukushima operator TEPCO, one of the five largest electricity utilities in the world, lost more than three-quarters of its share value, while the Japan Wind Development Company nearly doubled its stock price.”

The report adds that the nuclear disaster in Japan will make the construction of new nuclear plants and extensions to the lifetime of current plants even more unrealistic.

“For the global nuclear industry, the Fukushima disaster is an historic — if not fatal — setback,” said Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin.

By Chris Rose,