The levelized cost of energy (LCOE) from nuclear power rose from around $117/MWh in 2015 to $155 at the end of last year, according to the latest edition of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, published annually by French nuclear consultant Mycle Schneider.
By contrast, the LCOE from solar power decreased from $65/MWh to approximately $49 and that of wind from $55 to $41.
“What is remarkable about these trends, is that the costs of renewables continue to fall due to incremental manufacturing and installation improvements while nuclear, despite over half a century of industrial experience, continues to see costs rising,” stated the report, citing a recent study from financial advisory and asset management firm Lazard. “Nuclear power is now the most expensive form of generation, except for gas peaking plants,” added the study, which did not provide an LCOE for gas peaker generation.
The cost difference is having a huge impact in new generation capacity deployment, with just 2.4 GW of new nuclear plants installed last year, compared to 98 GW of solar and 59.2 GW of wind, according to the report. The world’s operational nuclear capacity fell 2.1% to 362 GW by the end of June. “The number of operating reactors in the world has dropped … to 408 as of mid-2020, that is below the level already reached in 1988 and 30 units below the historic peak of 438 in 2002,” the study reported.
Six nuclear reactors were grid-connected last year: three in Russia, two in China and one in South Korea. At the same time, five nuclear plants closed last year and three more were shuttered in the first half of this year, with no nuclear facilities added from January to June. An additional eight facilities, which had ceased operations, were decommissioned in 2019.
“The ‘big five’ nuclear generating countries – by rank: the United States, France, China, Russia and South Korea – again generated 70% of all nuclear electricity in the world in 2019,” the report stated. “Two countries, the U.S. and France, accounted for 45% of 2019 global nuclear production, that is two percentage points lower than in the previous year, as France’s output shrank by 3.5%.”
The report added, the average age of the world's nuclear reactor fleet has reached 30.7 years, with two-thirds of reactors operating for more than 31 years.
The number of reactors under construction rose from 46 to 52 – of which 15, with a total generation capacity of 14 GW, are in China. Most of those projects, however, have suffered years-long delays. Last year, construction started on four plants in China and one each in Russia and the U.K. and work began on a Turkish nuclear plant in the first half of this year.
The lead intro of this article was amended on 28/09/20 to reflect 2.4 GW of net new nuclear generation capacity came online last year, rather than 2.4 GW of absolute new capacity, as was previously reported.
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” French nuclear consultant Mycle Schneider.” – rather “German biomass lobbyist”. Nuclear is “so expensive” that its closures elevated price of energy.
Unexpected finding. I live in South Australia, it is commonly believed here that we have the most expensive power in the world, also one of the highest users of wind and solar renewables. France has around the cheapest energy in the world which it exports to many countries and it’s predominantly nuclear.
This false article article is an anti-nuclear propaganda piece. In the long run. Nuclear is by far the cheapest.
Wind and solar are more expensive in the long run and cause more damage to the environment. It’s the
long run that we should be focusing on.
Thanks for your comment. We take accusations of fake news very seriously here at pv magazine and would be interested to see evidence that the figures stated here by our reporter are different than those presented in the World Nuclear Industry Status Report. Also, it would be interesting for our readers to see the figures which back up your claim nuclear is cheaper than solar and wind power over the longer term.
Chinese nukes are routinely being built for $2B/GW so yes fake news. Easy for a notorious antinuke web site to cherry pick data on FOAK’s though – you shame yourselves.
We take accusations of fake news very seriously here at pv magazine so please let us know as soon as possible which facts our reporter has mentioned here which contradict the report he cited in the article.
This article is in the same vein as all the other articles published by the renewables crowd.
But if wind and solar are so cheap why is it that the countries with the highest percentage of wind and solar on the grid have the highest electricity prices? Compare Denmark, Germany, California with neighbouring countries and states.
Unreliables like wind and solar sound only good to people who don’t want to do the maths. The other day I read this article in another publication and I would like Max Hall and the people who commented here to read it:
My role here is simply to establish that no fake news is being purveyed by our website. As stated many times already, please let me know of any facts where our reporter has twisted the figures published in the report he was covering.
Max Hall, why does this paper even engage in anti clean energy articles like this. There’s no reason why nuclear power can’t coexist with solar panels.
I wouldn’t describe this article as anti-clean energy – a definition which is, of course, somewhat subjective. pv magazine‘s editorial remit has us discuss all generation types and the lively debate articles such as this stir up would appear to back our editorial policy.
Same old story: renewables look cheap if you ignore all the expensive parts. And nuclear is the most costly… “except for gas peaking plants” – okay. And what do you need lots and lots of, to integrate intermittent renewable generation into a reliable grid? Right: gas peaking plants. Lmao.
If gas is your choice, yes, you are right. But intermittency doesn’t mean unpredictable, so technically it is equalisable by many forms of other energies. At this stage, gas turbines (or even coal) may be used for equalisation of wind intermittency, but other renewables will step in as the transition goes forward. See for instance Germany’s process of connecting to the Norwegian grid, to compensate German wind with Norwegian hydro, away form coal.
« We take accusations of fake news very seriously here at pv magazine »
Yet you still have published this crap.
Please do let us know where exactly in the article our reporter has diverged from the contents of the study reported on.
It should be pointed out that the Lazard report is based on the cost of both deployment and operation of each energy source. Presently the cost to build a new nuclear facility representative of those present in the world is much higher that it was historically, while the deployment of wind and solar generation continues to drop due to manufacturing and technological advancements in efficiency. If deployment costs are removed from the picture nuclear generation is still a much lower cost per MWh when compared to the renewables, second only to Hydro generation. Also, without extensive battery backup or energy storage systems the renewable side of the industry is still not suitable for baseload generation, which is something nuclear plants excel at. A realistic view of the future of energy generation is likely to include the co-existence of both renewables and nuclear generation, but the future nuclear plants will be one of the many SMR (small modular reactor) variety currently in development. It will be interesting to see the Lazard report 10 years from now when these begin wide scale production.
The negative slant is unsurprising. The World Nuclear Industry Status Report is produced by Mycle Schneider, a founding member of WISE-Paris, which is the French branch of the anti-nuclear group WISE
Thanks for your comment. In response, Mycle Schneider has written the following:
The WNISR2020 is a 361-page document assembled by a team of top researchers from some of the most prestigious universities and thinktanks in the world. Seven interdisciplinary experts from Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Lebanon/U.S. and the U.K. – from top thinktanks like Chatham House in London and prestigious universities like Harvard, Meiji in Tokyo and Technical University in Berlin, have contributed to the report. The foreword was provided by Frank von Hippel, professor emeritus of Princeton University, and Jungmin Kang, former head of the safety authority in South Korea.
I act as WNISR project coordinator and publisher. Bio notes for all are here https://www.worldnuclearreport.org/Who-We-Are.html.
There is no connection between WISE-Paris and the WNISR. However, WISE-Paris has never had the objective to engage in any anti-nuclear activism, neither during my time as director, which ended in 2003, nor after. In fact, WISE-Paris has always had an excellent reputation as independent provider of information and expertise on energy and nuclear policy. The reputation of my successor as director is such that the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has appointed him to several permanent advisory expert groups.
WISE-Paris has no organizational link with any other group called WISE.
This worldnuclearreport from Mycle Schneider an anti-nuclear activist, is full of misinformation. Correct would be; n 2019, six new pressurized water reactors (PWR) were connected to the grid, resulting in an additional 5174 MW(e) of nuclear power capacity (double the amount quoted by PV Magazine’s 2400 MW(e).
Over 77% of this new capacity was added in Asia and included two reactor units in China at Taishan-2 (1660 MW(e)) and Yangjiang-6 (1000 MW(e)), and one reactor unit in the South Korea at Shin-Kori-4 (1340 MW(e)). In addition, three nuclear power reactor units with a total capacity of 1174 MW(e) were connected to grid in Russia, including Novovoronezh 2-2 (1114 MW(e)) and the world’s first commercial floating nuclear power plant ‘Akademik Lomonosov’ which comprises two units of 30MW(e) each…
Thanks for your comment. In response, Mycle Schneider has written the following:
pv magazine wrote: “Just 2.4 GW of new nuclear generation capacity came online last year, compared to 98 GW of solar.”
This should actually read: “Just 2.4 GW of net nuclear generation capacity came online last year, compared to 98 GW of solar.”
The reader is correct that 5.2 GW of new capacity came online, but at the same time 4.1 GW of capacity operating in 2018 was retrieved from the grid in 2019. If one takes into account 1.2 GW additional capacity for reactors that were restarted after LTO (long-term outage) and the power updates/downrates balance, the net added capacity in 2019 is, therefore, 2.4 GW (rounded). In fact, the installed capacity shrank in the first half of 2020, with no reactor starting up and three closing.
Everybody makes mistakes. We are always happy to correct errors. But there were no errors here and “full of misinformation” is not a description, it is simply defamatory. We call upon every reader to carefully read the report and let us know if they find any errors. We don’t accept insults.
NB, the copy has now been amended to reflect pv magazine‘s error.
Max Hall, you’re comparing Operational Capacity for solar with Net Capacity for nuclear. That’s not a fair comparison, the numbers would look a lot less favorable for solar if you compared net capacity, as you’d then have to measure how much of the solar panels energy actually got used.
Right now renewable energy sources are cheating by using the grid as a giant battery, thereby offloading the cost of handling their unstable production to grid controllers.
Let’s say that we ask a solar panel to produce energy following the consumption curve, like a peaker plant would, how many batteries and at what cost would that be?
Denmark which I live in get’s 40% of it’s energy from wind, but it does that by piggy backing on Norway and Sweden’s hydroelectric power using that as giant batteries. However we’ve hit a limit and there’s no way forward now. We’ll either have to build warehouses full of batteries (to be replaced every ten years), or we’ll have use natural gas (with the associated CO2) and we’ll likely do the latter as the former just isn’t cost effective.
Small detail, those numbers were made by Mycle Schneider, a French Antinuclear activists
Energoatom in Ukraine sells electricity at 15-16 U$D/MWh, they barely make a profit but they do it, Rosatom does it at 20U$D/MWh, the South Texas project at 35U$D/MWh, Palo Verde at 20U$D/MWh off peak ad 30U$D/MWh on peak, South Korea KEPCO at 28U$D/MWh
If governments or the population got 5% of the commitment to nuclear than they got to wind and solar the cost of building reactors would never surpass 2000U$D/KWe except for exports, which are generally at 4000U$D/KWe to cover for risks of cancellation, most problems with nuclear are political problems not technical problems Hinkley point C would cost less than 30% what it does if it didn’t had 8% interest rate, but 2% like what the government does with wind projects
Thanks for your comment, in response, Mycle Schneider has written the following:
I’m neither French, nor an anti-nuclear activist. I have been an independent analyst on energy and nuclear policy for decades, for governments and NGOs, thinktanks and city governments (including Seoul). Yes, I am often critical of the nuclear industry and we produce a comprehensive annual reality check the industry should be thankful for. However, even if I was “an anti-nuclear activist” — the terminology has only been used in an attempt to discredit my work — the key question is about whether the report is factually correct or not. Often this kind of remark comes from pro-nuclear activists who cannot even imagine that analysis is possible and indispensable outside the sterile pro and anti thinking.
The WNISR [World Nuclear Industry Status Report] does not “make” numbers. WNISR2020 has over 1,600 footnotes and provides its references according to the highest scientific standards.
The comparative assessment of LCOEs is from the latest Lazard report and, of course, referenced in the WNISR. Lazard is one of the oldest banks in the world. Its numbers are rather conservative but more or less in line with other assessments.
If the reader has other numbers he can always publish them somewhere and put them up for debate.
If you report reliably on the ‘World Status Report’ you will indeed find a lot of negative figures for nuclear, as those are the ones Myckle Schneider always seems to focus on. If you looked, for balance, at the World Nuclear Performance Report from the World Nuclear Association, you get a much rosier picture, from essentially the same figures. https://www.world-nuclear.org/our-association/publications/global-trends-reports/world-nuclear-performance-rep
If you go to the Lazard cost of energy report, though, you will see that the most expensive source of electricity is, in fact, residential rooftop solar, which varies from 151 to 242 $/MWh. Nuclear goes from 118 to 152 $/MWh. However, the actual running costs of nuclear, including decomissioning costs, are actually the cheapest of all, averaging 29 $MWh -cheaper than coal. In addition, Lazard don’t mention it, but nuclear also has the highest capacity, or availability, factor, by far, while solar generally has the lowest – especially outside desert areas, where exceptionally cheap solar prices are often quoted, but few people live. Lazard used to divide their graph into categories of ‘despatchable’ and ‘non-despatchable’ power sources, with a note that direct comparisons were not appropriate. Now they show ‘ renewable’ and ‘non renewable’, with a rider that ‘ in certain circumstances … selected renewable energy generation technologies are cost-competitive with conventional generation technologies ‘. As the guy from South Australia speculates, there are other circumstances, for example in what the Germans call ‘ Dunkelflaute’ , when most of them are not competitive at all, even if you do happen to have the world’s largest battery available.
It is a pity the link in your post is broken. Reading the 2020 report, it confirms that nuclear is decreasing:
Page 5 end of year capacity: 392 GWe (-5 GWe)
Page 5 Median construction period for new reactors grid connected in 2019: 117 months (+14 months)
And apparently they are worried about that.
In the end it is economics. If nuclear can’t compete, nuclear will be disrupted by other technologies and go the way of the steam trains. The only exception are countries that need nuclear for another reason like US, UK, France, Russia, China, Iran.
Don’t blame Max for showing what the market is doing.
What the market is permitted to do*
If governments weren’t actively involved in suppressing nuclear this would not be the case.
Using “capacity” as opposed to actual production is an interesting choice as nuclear power plants in the US have had an average capacity factor over 90% while wind and solar capacity factors are lucky to reach 30% at the high end, this makes 1Mw of nuclear power equivalent to more than 3Mw of wind and solar power.
This article does the same completely false comparison between nuclear capacity and wind/solar capacity, where the only thing that is measured is installed capacity for wind/solar but net capacity for nuclear.
The articles allows this cost comparison to happen without adding onto wind/solar the vast battery banks that need to be built to take the capacity rating up to 80%. Instead it’s allowed to rate it’s highly fluctuating performance whenever it is there.
The fact of the matter is that if wind and solar have to be as rock steady reliable as fossil fuels, or nuclear (which also should be considered a renewable but isn’t for political reasons) then the price of wind and solar would double or even triple in some cases.
Interesting how aggressive the pro-nuclear crowd is in disputing an article but how little they are able to come up with facts. The same pattern as with the anti-covid lockdown protesters, the Brexit campaign, the Trump campaign, the 5G conspiracy believers and the anti-vaxxers: lacking any facts discredit the messenger with rude, obnoxious posts.
Kudos to Max for his professionalism and patience in responding to these bullies!
In the end it is economics. If nuclear can’t compete, nuclear will be disrupted by other technologies and go the way of the steam trains.
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