Global Downward Trend for Nuclear Energy

September 4, 2009

A new German study demonstrates that there is no nuclear energy renaissance and that much of the hype is speculation. The authors detail the global trend for nuclear energy is downward and will not be reversed. For example, in 2008, no new nuclear power plant was connected to the grid, the first time since the mid-1950s. Many countries have plans for nuclear power plants, but do not have the electricity grids capable of holding and distributing the output of larger reactors. Further, many do not have the necessary economic, political and technological framework for establishing a nuclear energy program in the near term.

The study commissioned by the German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety, states the percentage of nuclear energy consumed globally is marginal and has been declining for several years. The authors are independent energy and nuclear sector experts. They collected data from operating nuclear power plants as well as those that are under construction or being planned. For example, in 2002, there were 444 reactors in operation worldwide, while in 2009, 435 reactors in operation.

Sigmar Gabriel, German Federal Environment Minister, said, "The renaissance of nuclear energy, much trumpeted by its supporters, is not taking place. The only thing frequently revived is the announcement. The study shows: the number of old nuclear power plants which are decommissioned worldwide is greater than the number of new ones taking up operation. Available resources, engineering performance and funds are not even enough to stop the downward trend, let alone increase the number of reactors. All the facts are in favor of phasing out this technology while at the same time expanding the use of renewable energies and energy efficiency, as this is a promising option for the future."

In the U.S., the Department of Energy (DOE) is asking for public comment about proposed regulatory changes to their loan guarantee program for construction of new nuclear power plants. The request states that "DOE believes it is appropriate to consider certain changes to the existing regulations to provide flexibility in the determination of an appropriate collateral package to secure guaranteed loan obligations, facilitate collateral sharing and related intercreditor arrangements with other project lenders, and to provide a more workable interpretation of certain statutory provisions regarding DOE's treatment of collateral."

Michael Mariotte, with the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, who has been monitoring all attempts for Congress to pass loan guarantees to the nuclear industry, said, "What DOE actually means is that the agency has been running into problems giving out loan guarantees because of soaring nuclear reactor cost estimates and the enormous risk to taxpayers these guarantees would represent - the very reasons the nuclear industry is in retreat rather than resurgence. Under this outrageous proposal, DOE would change its rules to speed guarantees and would put taxpayers at even greater risk in the event of default by letting other lenders, such as foreign export-import banks, get rights of repayment from utilities ahead of U.S. taxpayers." For more information about the loan guarantee program, please visit or e-mail

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