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World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013 (WNISR) was released on July 11. The report looks at nuclear reactor units in operation and under construction, with global statistics and detailed country-by-country information. The report also contains useful material on topics such as potential newcomer countries, the credit-rating performance of some of the major nuclear utilities, the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, and development patterns of renewable energies compared to nuclear power.

Some key facts from the report are listed here.

The number of operating reactors has fallen from the 2002 peak of 444 to the current 427 reactors.

Installed nuclear capacity peaked in 2010 at 375 gigawatts (GWe) before declining to the current level of 364 GWe.

Annual nuclear electricity generation peaked in 2006 at 2,660 terrawatt-hours (TWh), falling to 2,346 TWh in 2012 (down 7% compared to 2011, down 12% from 2006). About three-quarters of this decline is due to the situation in Japan, but 16 other countries, including the top five nuclear generators, also decreased their nuclear generation.

The nuclear share of the world's power generation declined steadily from a historic peak of 17% in 1993 to about 10 percent in 2012. Nuclear power's share of global commercial primary energy production fell to 4.5% in 2012, a level last seen in 1984.

The average age of the world's nuclear fleet continues to increase and in mid-2013 stands at 28 years. Over 190 reactors (45% of the total) have operated for 30 years, of which 44 have run for 40 years or more.

Fourteen countries currently are currently building nuclear power plants, one more than a year ago as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) started construction at Barrakah. The UAE is the first new country in 27 years to have started building a commercial nuclear power plant.

As of July 2013, 66 reactors are under construction (seven more than in July 2012) with a total capacity of 63 GW. However:

  • Nine reactors have been listed as "under construction" for more than 20 years and four additional reactors have been listed for 10 years or more.
  • Forty-five projects do not have an official planned start-up date on the IAEA's database.
  • At least 23 have encountered construction delays, most of them multi-year. For the remaining 43 reactor units, either construction began within the past five years or they have not yet reached projected start-up dates, making it difficult or impossible to assess whether they are on schedule or not.
  • Two-thirds (44) of the units under construction are located in three countries: China, India and Russia.
  • The average construction time of the 34 units that started up in the world between 2003 and July 2013 was 9.4 years.

Only three reactors started up in 2012, while six were shut down. In 2013, up to 1 July, only one reactor started up, while four shutdown decisions − all in the U.S. − were taken. Three of those four units faced costly repairs, but one (Kewaunee, Wisconsin) was running well and had received a license renewal just two years ago to operate up to a total of 60 years; it simply became uneconomic to run.

Engagement in nuclear programs has been delayed by most of the potential newcomer countries, including Bangladesh, Belarus, Jordan, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam.

In 2012, construction began on six reactors and on three so far in 2013, including on two units in the US. Those two units have been offered over US$8 billion in federal loan guarantees and other subsidies whose total rivals their construction costs, and special laws have transferred financial risks to the taxpayers and customers.

Additional costs arising from upgrading and backfitting measures following the lessons of the Fukushima crisis are only beginning to surface. They are likely to have substantial impact on investment as well as operational costs.

Nine out of 14 major utilities assessed in the WNSIR saw their earnings decline over the past five years while 13 constantly increased their debt level.

Over the past five years, 10 out of 15 assessed nuclear utilities were downgraded by credit rating agency Standard and Poor's, four remained stable, while only one was upgraded.

Renewable energy
In spite of a slight decrease in global investment in 2012, partly reflecting rapidly falling equipment prices, renewable energy development continues its rapid expansion in both, capacity and generation. China, Germany and Japan, three of the world's four largest economies, as well as India, now generate more power from renewables than from nuclear power.

Global investment in renewable energy totalled US$268 billion in 2012, down from US$300 billion the previous year but still five times the 2004 amount.

Globally, since 2000, the annual growth rates for onshore wind power have averaged 27%  and for solar photovoltaics 42%. This has resulted in 2012 in 45 GW of wind and 32 GW of solar being installed, compared to a net addition of 1.2 GW of nuclear. China has a total of 75 GW of operating wind power capacity, roughly doubled in each of the past five years.

For the first time, China and India generated more power from wind than from nuclear plants in 2012, while in China solar electricity generation grew four-fold in one year.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report is posted at


EIA and IEA reports
The newly-released US Energy Information Administration's 'International Energy Outlook 2013' estimates that total world energy consumption will increase by 56% between 2010 and 2040, from 524 quadrillion British thermal units to 820 quadrillion. Most of that growth is anticipated in Asian and Middle Eastern countries outside the OECD, while energy use in OECD countries is expected to increase by 17%.

Global electricity generation is predicted to grow by 93% from the 2010 level to reach 39,000 TWh by 2040. The EIA predicts that renewables (including hydro, wind and solar) and nuclear power will grow by 2.5% annually between 2010 and 2040.

Electricity generation from nuclear plants is forecast to increase from 2620 TWh in 2010 to 5492 TWh in 2040. Substantial increases in nuclear generating capacity are projected, including 149 GWe in China, 47 GWe in India, 31 GWe in Russia and 27 GWe in South Korea. However, nuclear's share of global electricity production will amount to just 14% in 2040 even under the EIA's growth scenario. The share of renewables is forecast to increase from 21% in 2010 to 25% in 2040.

On June 26, the International Energy Agency (IEA) published an upbeat report on the expected progress of renewable energy worldwide. The IEA's second annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report (MTRMR) foresees that power generation capacity from hydro, wind, solar and other renewable sources worldwide will exceed that from gas and be twice that from nuclear by 2018. Renewable power production is expected to grow by 40% over the next five years. Renewables will make up "almost a quarter of the global power mix by 2018, up from an estimated 20% in 2011". The share of non-hydro sources such as wind, solar, bioenergy and geothermal in total power generation will double, reaching 8% by 2018, up from 4% in 2011 and just 2% in 2006.

The IEA also notes that "in addition to the well-established competitiveness of hydropower, geothermal and bioenergy, renewables are becoming cost-competitive in a wider set of circumstances. For example, wind competes well with new fossil-fuel power plants in several markets, including Brazil, Turkey and New Zealand. Solar is attractive in markets with high peak prices for electricity, for instance, those resulting from oil-fired generation. Decentralised solar photovoltaic generation costs can be lower than retail electricity prices in a number of countries."

US Energy Information Administration, 'International Energy Outlook 2013',
International Energy Agency, Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report,
World Nuclear Association, 26 July 2013, Asian growth to boost global energy demand,
Karel Beckman, 12 July 2013, 'The new energy world according to the IEA',