Compare this report with the IAEA's: The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2017, https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/-2017-.html "this 2017 World Nuclear Industry Status Report is perhaps the most decisive document in the history of nuclear power. The report makes clear, in telling detail, that the debate is over. Nuclear power has been eclipsed by the sun and the wind. These renewable, free-fuel sources are no longer a dream or a projection-they are a reality that are replacing nuclear as the preferred choice for new power plants worldwide. Nuclear power is far from dead but it is in decline and renewable energy is growing by leaps and bounds. Most revealing is the fact that nowhere in the world, where there is a competitive market for electricity, has even one single nuclear power plant been initiated. Only where the govt or the consumer takes the risks of cost overruns and delays is nuclear power even being considered. Since 1997, worldwide, renewable energy has produced 4 times as many new kilowatt-hours of electricity than nuclear power."
Globally, there were 448 nuclear power reactors in operation at the end of 2017. Construction started on 4, with a total of 59 under construction; 5 were permanently shut down. Around 60% of the reactors had been in operation for 30+ years. Global generating capacity was 392 gigawatts. (2017 report, p.31)
Compared with 2016 levels, the IAEA's 2017 projections for installed nuclear power capacity showed increases of 42% by 2030, 83% by 2040, and 123% by 2050 in the high case scenario. The low case scenario projected a 12% dip by 2030 and a 15% dip by 2040, before a return to current levels by 2050.
Why is the govt so desperate for nuclear power? Because the British nuclear submarine industry depends on continuation of UK civil nuclear power. Consumers are going to fund nuclear weapons by paying the exorbitant costs of nuclear power stations like Hinkley Point C. Researchers at the Science Policy Research Unit found evidence of desperation to keep expertise for submarine reactors alive. ref, ref
The Nuclear Lobby
- May.2017: Radioactive Waste - Myths and Realities. A perfect example from nuclear lobby group, the World Nuclear Association, of gliding over the serious problems, using irrelevant comparisons with eg. coal, and generally manipulating the reader. World Nuclear Association.
- Jun.30.2011: Revealed: British government's plan to play down Fukushima. Govt officials from BEIS approached nuclear companies EDF Energy, Areva SA and Westinghouse and their trade body Nuclear Industry Association to draw up a co-ordinated Public Relations strategy to play down the Fukushima nuclear accident just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and before the extent of the radiation leak was known. "We need to occupy the territory and hold it." A former regulator said the degree of collusion was "truly shocking". The govt recently confirmed plans for 8 new nuclear stations in England and Wales. The Guardian, Rob Edwards.
Nuclear power has 3 major issues, the most serious of which is that all known methods of waste disposal require some kind of burial and permanent monitoring for ~240,000 years. We have little experience in building facilities to last for 100 years, let alone millenia; and how to warn people so far into the future? The costs of monitoring and maintenance over such a timescale are unimaginable, and generations for hundreds of thousands of years to come will have to pay the cost for a few decades of electricity for our generation.  After 50+ years of research, there are no satisfactory answers.
I. Fuel Supply
Advocates assert that advanced nuclear systems will enable mankind to use nuclear power for hundreds to thousands of years. However, after 60+ years of research worldwide, and €100bn in research, not one operating closed-cycle reactor exists. Extraction of uranium ore must require less energy than can be generated from the recovered uranium - the "energy cliff". Analysis of uranium recovery processes shows that the amount of energy consumed per kg of recovered natural uranium rises exponentially with declining ore grades.
An average reactor will have about 16bn curies in its core, which is the equivalent of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs. A reactor's fuel rods, pipes, tanks and valves can leak: reactors have an extensive network of buried piping systems and tanks which transport liquids that contain radioactive isotopes including tritium and strontium-90. These piping systems are not adequately inspected or maintained due to their inaccessibility; instead, statistical probability models are used.
Climate Change is exacerbating the problem; the hot summers in France in 2003 and 2018 meant the safety of the country's 58 nuclear plants was a serious concern. Several plants had to be shut down, due to river and sea water temperatures being far higher than normal.
The risk of human error is growing because privatisation and liberalisation have forced operators to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Nuclear energy has high fixed costs: building costs are ~75%; all savings must therefore come from the 25% variable costs of price, notably from efficiency increases and personnel reductions. See also this very long list: Nuclear power plant accidents.
The entire nuclear fuel chain, from mining to milling, processing, enrichment, fuel fabrication, and fuel irradiation in reactors, generates radioactive waste. Production of 1,000 tons of uranium fuel generates ~100,000 tons of tailings and 3.5 million litres of liquid waste(Note 1). Before the UN Treaty in 1993, govts merrily dumped it all in the sea. Current waste management takes 3 forms: dilute and disperse, delay and decay, and concentrate and contain.
Mining. Uranium is extracted from crushed ore by dissolving it out using chemicals. The "sludge" left behind - called tailings - contains 85% of the initial radioactivity of the ore (but now concentrated), and is either dumped in piles, or kept in uncovered ponds. The sludge contains long-lived decay products such as thorium-230 as well as heavy metals and other contaminants, eg. arsenic, plus the chemical reagents used during the extraction process. As the tailings sit there, they are continually generating radon gas, which is ~8 times heavier than air, so it stays close to the ground. Radon is a long-term hazard, as it is continually produced from thorium-230 (half-life 80,000 yrs) → radium-226 (half-life 1,600 yrs) → radon gas (half-life 3.8 days). Radon can travel 1,000 miles in just a few days, depositing radon daughters, which are taken up by the food chain (unlike the gaseous radon itself, radon daughters are solids and stick to surfaces). Uranium mining is a very efficient mechanism for pumping radioactivity into the environment for millennia to come.
Clearance for "negligible hazard" waste. Every nuclear power reactor dumps radioactive water, scatters radioactive particles, and disperses radioactive gases as part of its routine, everyday operation. Regulations allow water containing "permissible" levels of radioactive isotopes to be released unfiltered into the environment. A typical 1000-megawatt pressurized water reactor (with a cooling tower) takes in about 90,922 litres of river, lake or sea water per minute for cooling; circulates it through a 80-km maze of pipes; returns about 22,730 litres per minute to the same body of water; and releases the remainder to the atmosphere as vapor. A similar reactor without a cooling tower can take in 2.3 million litres per minute.
Authorised Release to the Environment. Some radioactive gases, stripped from the reactor cooling water, are retained in decay tanks for days before being released into the atmosphere through filtered roof top vents. Some gases leak into the buildings’ interiors and are released during periodic "ventings". These airborne gases contaminate not only the air, but also fall onto soil and water. Economically feasible filtering technologies do not exist for some major byproducts, such as radioactive hydrogen (tritium) and noble gases such as krypton (→ rubidium → strontium) and xenon (→ cesium). Some liquids and gases are retained temporarily in tanks so that shorter-lived radioactive materials can break down before being released to the environment.
- Note 1: Enough to power the world's 448 reactors for approximately 2 years, assuming that an average reactor uses 1,005 kg per year.
- Note 2: How long does nuclear waste stay dangerous for? Seven isotopes have been identified which will still be active after millions of years: Technetium 99, Tin 126, Selenium 79, Zirconium 93, Caesium 135, Palladium 107, and Iodine 129. For example, Caesium 135 has a half life of 2.3m years, and the most dangerous parts will have decayed to only a small proportion of their original activity after a few thousand years. See The 7 long-lived fission products. Note that the standard used by nuclear scientists in Europe is that waste may be considered safe when it has decayed to the point that it is no more radioactive than naturally-occurring uranium ore. According to this criterion, spent fuel is safe in about 6,000,000 years.
- Note 3: What harm does nuclear waste do to you? There are two main hazards. Some wastes are chemically poisonous, just like eg. mercury or arsenic. Other wastes give off radiation; very low level radiation is only dangerous if ingested into the body, whereas hard (ionizing) radiation can change cells' DNA, cause cancer, or induce organ failure.
- GDFWatch is nuclear-neutral - except in the matter of waste disposal. How to permanently dispose of our most radioactive waste is a complex issue, and highly emotive. It is vital that we have an informed public discussion before each decision is made, and that Community Consent is correctly and honestly informed.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency is the global central intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical co-operation in the nuclear field. It works for the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology.
- The OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency is an inter-governmental agency that facilitates co-operation among countries with advanced nuclear technology infrastructures to seek excellence in nuclear safety, technology, science, environment and law. The NEA's mission is to "assist its member countries in maintaining and further developing, through international co-operation, the scientific, technological and legal bases required for the safe, environmentally friendly and economical use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes".
- The International Panel on Fissile Materials is a group of independent nuclear experts from 17 countries: Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, South Korea, Russia, South Africa, Sweden, the UK, and the USA (the Netherlands was a member, but recently dropped out). It aims to provide the technical basis for policy initiatives to reduce global stocks of military and civilian fissile materials. The Panel produces an annual Global Fissile Material Report which summarizes new information on fissile material stocks and production worldwide, as well as periodic research reports.
- The Office for Nuclear Regulation is the safety regulator for the civil nuclear industry in the UK. The ONR also has responsibility for assessing safety and accident response systems at Ministry of Defence sites.
- The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has a strategic role: it establishes the overall approach, allocates budgets, sets targets and monitors progress. The actual cleaning up is done via contracts with Site Licence Companies. There are currently 17 historic (1940s-1970s) nuclear sites being decommissioned.
- The World Nuclear Association is an international trade organisation that promotes nuclear power and supports the companies that comprise the global nuclear industry.
- WISE is an information and networking center for citizens and organizations concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, radiation and sustainable energy issues. The organization advocates the implementation of safe, sustainable solutions such as energy efficiency and renewable energy.
- The Nuclear Industry Association is the trade association for the civil nuclear industry in the UK, and represents 250+ companies across the supply chain.