Nuclear reactor construction falls to zero globally in 2016

Construction starts for new nuclear reactors fell to zero globally in the first half of 2016 as the atomic industry struggles against falling costs for renewables and a slowdown in Chinese building.

The last time there were no new reactors started over a full year was in 1995, according to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016.

The number of reactors under construction is in decline for a third year, with 58 being built by the end of June, down from 67 reactors at the end of 2013, the report said.

The latest figures highlight the struggles the nuclear sector is facing after the Fukushima atomic disaster in Japan five years ago, as higher costs and delays take their toll while other sources of energy become cheaper.

The nuclear industry faces a risk it ‘will not be easily protected from: the economic and financial risks from nuclear power being irreversibly out-competed by renewable power', Tomas Kaberger, energy professor at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, wrote in the report.

Kaberger is also a member of the board of state-owned Swedish utility Vattenfall, which owns 10 nuclear reactors.

Construction started on six reactors in China in 2015, three times more than the rest of the world, while eight went into operation there last year, out of 10 globally, underlining how the world's biggest energy user is a bright spot for the nuclear industry.

Three reactors have started up this year in China, with one in South Korea and another in the USA, Watts Bar 2, which took 43 years to build, according to the report.

But even in China, renewables investment and capacity additions are outstripping nuclear.

Renewables investments totalled $100bn in China last year, more than five times the amount for new reactors, which was $18bn.

Wind energy output totalled 185 terawatt hours (TWh) last year in China, compared with 161 TWh for nuclear. Solar power output totalled 39 TWh in 2015, up from 23 TWh the year before.

The report is available in full here.

A Japanese court recently upheld an order to keep two reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power closed, in a further blow to efforts to get the country's struggling nuclear industry up and running.

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