Report: World Not Building Enough Nuclear Power To Fix Global Warming

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A report published Tuesday by the World Nuclear Association found reactors are not being built quickly enough to meet the world’s global warming goals.

The report found 1,000 gigawatts of new nuclear capacity need to be added by 2050 to come close to limiting global warming. A single gigawatt of power provides enough energy for roughly 700,000 homes.

That means roughly 100 new nuclear power plants need to be built worldwide by 2050, but only three were constructed last year. The report blames the slow rate of construction on a lack of public support in Europe and tough economic conditions in America. It also points out that Japan’s permanent shutdown of six reactors since the Fukushima accident in 2011 has substantially slowed the industry’s growth.

“The situation facing the nuclear industry globally is challenging.” Agneta Rising, director general of the World Nuclear Association, stated in the report preface. “Substantial progress has also been made towards the commercialization of small and advanced reactor designs. The rate of new build is, however, insufficient if the world is to meet the targets for reducing the impacts of global warming.”

America currently operates 99 nuclear reactors across 61 commercially-operated nuclear power plants, according to the Energy Information Administration. Of the 66 new nuclear reactors under construction worldwide, only four of them are being built in the U.S. — just enough to compensate for shutting down older reactors. Instead of building more modern reactors, the government is planning to simply extend the operating licenses against the advice of its own technical staff. It takes an average of 73 months to construct a new nuclear reactor, according to the report.

The average American nuclear reactor is 35 years old, nearly obsolete by modern design standards and near the end of its operating license. Within the past two years, six states have shut down nuclear plants and many other reactors are risking premature retirement. America could get less than 10 percent of its electricity from nuclear by 2050, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Sixteen American nuclear reactors are more than 42 years old, according to government data compiled and mapped in April by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Other countries haven’t shown the same reluctance as the U.S. to embrace nuclear power. India has a rapidly growing nuclear power program and the country plans to get 25 percent of its electricity from nuclear reactors by 2050. China is also planning to build new nuclear plants and has plans to build 20 floating nuclear reactors in the South China Sea, strengthening its claim to the valuable and disputed region. The country plans to have 150 gigawatts of nuclear power by 2030, according to the World Nuclear Association.

The average nuclear plant employs between 400 and 700 highly skilled workers, has a payroll of about $40 million and contributes $470 million to the local economy, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.

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