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Nuclear Power After Fukushima

BERLIN, GERMANY - The future of nuclear power was bleak even before the Fukushima disaster, said energy expert Mycle Schneider Wednesday at a press conference in Berlin, where he previewed an upcoming Worldwatch Institute report on the outlook of nuclear power.

To obtain a free copy of the draft report, click here.

“The industry was arguably on life support before Fukushima. When the history of this industry is written, Fukushima is likely to introduce its final chapter,” said Schneider, lead author of the new report, which was previewed in Berlin today at an event hosted by the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Preliminary findings from the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2010-2011: Nuclear Power in a Post-Fukushima World, which will be released around the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, point to a bleak future for the nuclear industry. Nuclear reactor startups have been in steady decline since the 1980s, with only China bucking the trend in recent years. China, which has frozen all new projects since the Fukushima crisis started, already has 4.5 times more installed wind power than nuclear capacity and in 2011 will likely generate more electricity from wind than from its reactors.

Meanwhile, world total nuclear generating capacity has remained roughly steady for the past 20 years, while the actual output has declined slightly. In contrast, output from wind, solar, and biofuels experienced tremendous growth over the same period. Furthermore, many of the world’s nuclear plants are fast approaching the end of their viable lifespan, increasing the likelihood that the share of electricity from nuclear power will decline in the coming decades. The Fukushima disaster will make it increasingly difficult for operators to argue for lifetime extensions.

“U.S. news headlines often suggest that a 'nuclear renaissance' is under way,” said Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. “This was a big overstatement even before March 11, and the nuclear disaster in Japan will inevitably cause the governments and companies that were still considering new nuclear units to reassess their plans. The Three Mile Island accident caused a wholesale reassessment of nuclear safety regulations, massively increased the cost of nuclear power, and put an end to nuclear construction in the United States. For the global nuclear industry, the Fukushima disaster is an historic—if not fatal—setback.”

Rebecca Harms, President of the Greens-EFA, said, “Fukushima has made it clear that the EU must define a new sustainable energy strategy based on low-risk technology. As opposed to 25 years ago when we last had this debate in the aftermath of Chernobyl, we now have the alternative renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that we need. What we still lack is the political will.”


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The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Its mission is to generate and promote insights and ideas that empower decision makers to build an ecologically sustainable society that meets human needs.

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