Nuclear Outlook Bleak

An interesting review of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2015 (WNISR 2015) in the current Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

Nuclear heavyweights. In both France and Japan, two of the three countries with the largest installed nuclear capacity (the United States is number one), the nuclear industry is in deep trouble. Although Japan still has 40 reactors that are counted as installed capacity, none of them operated in 2014. It was the first time in 50 years that Japan was without nuclear electricity for an entire calendar year. And no lights went out. As of today, it appears likely that two reactors, at most, will restart in Japan this year.

In France, long the world’s role model for how to successfully develop nuclear energy, the National Assembly passed an energy bill that defines a target to reduce nuclear’s share of the electricity mix from three-quarters to half by 2025. The French state-controlled energy group Areva—the self-proclaimed global leader in nuclear energy—went technically bankrupt after reporting massive losses for four years in a row. Credit-rating agencies have downgraded Areva’s long-term debt to “junk,” and the company’s share price plunged to a record low earlier this month, a level 90 percent below its record high in 2007.