For a recent debate on whether the world needs a nuclear renaissance, Stanford University chose three Nobel laureates and, well, me. I argued that an ongoing energy efficiency and renewable energy renaissance is already opening the best paths to affordable and reliable energy services without carbon pollution.
The nuclear industry’s declining performance in the United States and globally came in for particular attention. I summed up the numbers this way:
-In the 15 years before I began working for NRDC in 1979, 104 U.S. nuclear reactors were built or approaching completion. The number ordered and finished since 1979 is zero. The number of costly US nuclear plant cancellations had passed 100 by 1982.
-Nuclear power’s global market share has dropped by more than a third over the past two decades (declining from 18 percent to 11 percent);
-Although one of my opponents noted that 62 reactors are under construction worldwide today, I responded with Mycle Schneider’s finding that the peak year (1979) involved four times that many.
The verdict so far is clear: the principal winners in the world’s emerging clean energy transition are unconnected to any “nuclear renaissance.”